09/25/09 11:32 PM ET
Doc goes distance to blank Seattle
Ace throws eighth complete game in final home start of '09
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
On Friday night, though, Halladay noticed something different. As the pitcher left the Blue Jays' dugout to take the mound in the ninth inning of a 5-0 win over the Mariners, the crowd was already giving him a standing ovation -- choosing not to wait until Halladay finished his outing.
Maybe it was simply the result of the type of dominating performance Halladay was fashioning. Or, perhaps the fans were realizing that this might have been it -- potentially their final chance to watch him work in Toronto as a member of the Blue Jays.
"I can't remember many times going out for the ninth where people are cheering and standing up before the inning starts," Halladay said with a smile. "Maybe I was more aware of it -- I don't know."
With the crowd still on its feet, Halladay needed just 11 more pitches to put the finishing touches on a seven-hit shutout against Seattle. Rogers Centre was filled with a unified eruption of joyful cries after Halladay used a 91-mph fastball to induce a game-ending groundout off the bat of Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima.
Halladay strolled off the field and raised his hat high in the air -- higher than he has following many similar masterpieces in Toronto. A few minutes later, after a long line of Halladay's teammates and coaches shook his hand, the Blue Jays faithful waiting in the seats along the first-base line joined together in a chant of "Thank-You-Roy!"
"Those are things you take with you and you're going to tell your kids about," said Halladay, who improved to 16-10 with a 2.90 ERA with the win. "Regardless of what happens this winter, it means a lot to me. To have that many people that supportive and chanting, yeah, I think it'd mean a lot to anybody."
What will happen this coming offseason is the question on everyone's mind.
Leading up to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Blue Jays (70-84) entertained trade proposals for Halladay, opting in the end to keep him in the fold after no packages were convincing enough to send the face of Toronto's franchise packing. Given the current circumstances surrounding the Blue Jays, the ballclub will likely listen to offers again this winter.
Halladay -- in his 12th season with an organization that has not reached the postseason since 1993 -- has reached the point of his career where reaching the World Series is an immediate goal. Toronto is in the midst of its worst season since losing 94 games in 2004, and contending next year could be very tough.
If the Jays' financial situation does not allow for an active offseason, the club may decide that fielding offers for Halladay might be the best move. Next year is the final year under Halladay's current contract, and he has made it no secret that he might decide to test free agency if Toronto does not appear close to contention.
"You have to do what makes sense, too," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "If it makes sense to bring him back, if we have a chance to win next year, or certainly get a Wild Card, then you would hang on to Doc. But, if you didn't, I think you would always think about, 'Maybe it's time to move him and get something for him while you can.'"
"They're going to do what's right for the club. And certainly Doc's got a little bit of say-so in where he might want to go or not want to go. It just makes sense to do it the right way."
If Blue Jays fans were indeed watching Halladay at home for the final time as Toronto's ace, he definitely gave them something to remember.
In his Major League-leading eighth complete game of the season, Halladay scattered seven hits, minimizing the damage by issuing no walks, striking out nine and creating 10 groundouts. The right-hander threw 71 percent of his 114 pitches for strikes and never once slipped to a three-ball count among the 33 batters he faced.
Every time the Mariners (80-74) threatened, Halladay found a way to escape unscathed.
"That's what Doc's about," Gaston said. "Good pitchers do that. They reach back and get a little bit more and they get you out."
Seattle's best scoring chance came in the third inning, when Ichiro Suzuki and Franklin Gutierrez reached with consecutive one-out singles. Halladay promptly induced a grounder off the bat of Jose Lopez, who chopped the ball up the middle. Second baseman Aaron Hill gloved the roller and flipped it to shortstop John McDonald to begin an inning-ending double play.
"It's fun playing behind him," Hill said.
Hill gave Halladay all the run support he'd require with a two-run home run -- the second baseman's team-leading 34th blast of the year -- off Mariners righty Doug Fister in the sixth inning. Jose Bautista added a two-run single in the seventh inning and Lyle Overbay contributed an RBI double in the eighth to hand Halladay a 5-0 advantage.
That was more than ample to help Halladay notch at least 16 wins for the fourth year in a row. He also has at least 220 innings in four straight seasons, at least seven complete games in three consecutive campaigns and back-to-back years with 200 or more strikeouts.
Halladay has one scheduled start remaining -- an outing on the road against the Red Sox on Wednesday -- and he insists he has yet to contemplate his future with the Blue Jays. His focus is still on the job at hand.
"Really, I haven't put a lot of thought into it," Halladay said. "The first week or two after the season, it may be different. I have another year. That's where it stands right now and that's the way I look at it. At this point, for me, it's kind of trying to keep it the same."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.