05/17/09 6:33 PM ET
Doc claims No. 8 for rolling Blue Jays
Ace pushes Toronto to season-high 12 games over .500
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
The recent performance of Toronto's offense, combined with Halladay's consistent ability to shut down opponents with machine-like efficiency, creates a relaxed environment for the Jays. Sure enough, Halladay recovered after his brief first-inning glitch, and the Blue Jays' hitters went to work, resulting in an 8-2 victory over the White Sox.
The early deficit didn't bother Jays manager Cito Gaston much, considering Halladay was on the hill.
"You don't worry about that too much," Gaston said. "You just hope that the guys are going to come back and get some runs, because more than likely he's not going to give up too many more of them.
"If it's someone else, you might be a little bit worried about giving up two runs in the first inning."
Halladay finished with another dominant effort, logging seven innings in improving his record to 8-1 to become the first pitcher in the Majors to reach eight wins this season. The right-hander also joined Roger Clements (1997) as the only pitchers in franchise history to open a season with eight wins in their first nine appearances.
As for the Blue Jays, Halladay's latest win pushed their season ledger to 26-14, making the team the first in the American League to reach that win total this year. Toronto has also matched a season best with three consecutive wins, claiming a series victory over the White Sox with one game remaining in the four-game set.
The Blue Jays upped their record to a season-high 12 games over .500, tying the team's showing in the 1984 and '85 campaigns for the best start through 40 games. In doing so, Toronto claimed its ninth straight win over Chicago (15-21), which has dropped 11 of its past 14 contests.
Toronto designated hitter Adam Lind, who launched a three-run homer in the fourth inning to give the Jays a 4-2 lead, put the team's impressive start into perspective.
"Over the past three years, we always had a good team," Lind said. "We've always had slow starts, but we always thought we were for real. It's just, 'Where are we at in September?' That's the question."
Prior to Lind's blast, the Blue Jays faced an early hole due to a shaky first inning from their ace.
White Sox left fielder Scott Podsednik opened the first by sending the first pitch of the game into left field for a double off Halladay. Chris Getz followed by chopping the second pitch he saw from Halladay down the first-base line, where the pitcher bobbled the ball for a costly error to put runners on the corners with no outs.
Jermaine Dye then drove a pitch into right field for a run-scoring single and Paul Konerko followed with an RBI base hit of his own, putting the Jays in an early two-run hole. Like Podsednik, Konerko collected his hit on the first pitch. Halladay and Jays catcher Rod Barajas opted to switch up their game plan to account for Chicago's early aggressiveness.
"Fortunately, I thought we recognized it," Halladay said. "It could've been earlier, but we figured it out soon enough to start mixing pitches earlier and, hopefully, allow me to throw more fastballs early in the count. I think there's going to be teams that are going to do that.
"Thats something you can use to your advantage if you're locating."
With slugger Jim Thome at the plate, Dye bolted for third base and was easily caught stealing by Barajas for the first out. After Halladay walked Thome, the pitcher settled down, retiring 11 of the next 12 hitters he faced through the fourth inning. That gave the Jays' offense time to mount a comeback.
These days, two runs doesn't seem like much to overcome for the Jays.
"No, not really, especially in the first inning," Lind said. "We've got nine more at-bats. We just keep plugging away. Everybody in our offense is doing their thing. As long as we keep that up, especially with Doc on the mound, we'll be all right."
Blue Jays right fielder Alex Rios got the rally started with a solo homer in the home half of the first. In the fourth, Lind delivered his three-run shot to put Toronto ahead by two runs. By the time Sox starter Gavin Floyd (2-4) was removed from the game, he had surrendered six runs on seven hits over five innings.
Not that Halladay needed any more support, but Aaron Hill added his team-leading 11th home run of the season with a solo blast off Chicago's Bobby Jenks in a two-run eighth. That kind of relentless offensive attack is something Halladay has grown accustomed to this season.
"I've been fortunate to pitch on the right days," Halladay said. "We've scored a lot of runs and it's been a nice luxury. ... For the most part, I've been really fortunate with run support -- I've had cushions. We've scored runs early. That makes a huge difference and I think that sometimes has more to do with it than how I pitch."
The hitters might disagree.
Halladay has logged at least seven innings in each of his starts this season, leading the Majors with 68 innings pitched. Doc sounded diappointed in his latest effort, yet he ended with eight strikeouts and just one walk and lowered his ERA to 2.78 on the season.
The White Sox had their chances against Halladay -- they put the leadoff man aboard in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings -- but weren't able to cash in after the first inning. That's the type of performance the Jays are used to from the horse of their staff.
"It was just typical Doc," Lind said with a smile. "It was two in the first. Other than that, it was pretty standard -- pretty normal."
In other words, it was nothing to worry about.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.