Halladay is 20-5 with a 3.32 ERA in May, by far his most impressive numbers of any month, and is coming off his best outing of the season when he tossed a four-hitter while striking out six, in a 5-1 win Monday over the Los Angeles Angels.
“That’s as strong as I’ve seen him this year,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of the hurler, who went 4-1 with a 1.58 ERA last May. “You knew it was a matter of time. He felt fine. It was just a matter of building some arm strength, feeling good out there and getting that cutter going. That’s been a big pitch for him the last few years.”
Halladay (4-1, 3.12 ERA) is just 4-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 16 games—13 starts — against Tampa Bay in his career and suffered his only loss of the season April 9, when he allowed five runs to the Devil Rays in 7 1-3 innings of a 5-2 defeat.
The Blue Jays (19-16) have won four of their last six games, but started a nine-game road trip with a 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Friday.
Rookie Casey Janssen, who was added to the rotation shortly after newcomer A.J. Burnett was placed on the disabled list with right elbow soreness, allowed four runs and seven hits in seven innings to drop to 1-3.
“It’s kind of frustrating when they didn’t really earn the four runs,” said Janssen, who allowed two runs via balk and wild pitch. “(I kind of) feel like we gave them a few and I gave them a few.”
Vernon Wells drove in the lone run for the Blue Jays with a third-inning single.
The Devil Rays (15-21), who began a nine-game homestand Friday after playing 21 of their first 35 games on the road, are off to their third-best start in team history. They went 16-20 at the start of their inaugural 1998 season and 17-19 the following year.
“It is nice to win, but this is a team game and I’m more concerned with the team’s wins and losses,” said McClung, who has allowed two runs or less in four straight starts.
Mark Hendrickson (2-2, 2.39), who spent his first two seasons with the Blue Jays after being drafted in the 20th round in 1997, hopes to have as much success against his former team Saturday as McClung did in the opener.
Hendrickson led the Devil Rays in wins in each of the past two seasons, notching 10 in 2004 and 11 last year, and is off to a fine start in 2006.
The 6-foot-9 left-hander has had just one bad start among his first four and enters this game trying to win consecutive starts for the first time since Sept. 19-25. Hendrickson limited the Oakland A’s to one run and five hits in six innings of Tampa’s 3-2 win Sunday.
Hendrickson is 2-3 with a 4.62 ERA lifetime versus the Blue Jays and hasn’t faced them since he allowed two runs and struck out six in seven innings of a 4-3 loss on Sept. 2, 2005.