Despite starting two days earlier, Roy Halladay expects to pitch in the All-Star game. He could go into it as the top winner in the majors.
Halladay will go for his 12th victory, matching his total from an injury-plagued 2005 season, as the Blue Jays close a three-game set against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday.
Halladay (11-2, 3.02 ERA) is tied with Boston’s Josh Beckett, Detroit’s Kenny Rogers, St. Louis’ Jason Marquis and the New York Mets’ Tom Glavine for the major league lead with 11 wins. Of that quartet, only Halladay and Glavine are scheduled to pitch Sunday.
With that win total and an ERA which is among the top 10 in the majors, Halladay was a virtual shoe-in to make the All-Star team for the fourth time.
However, the only time he pitched in an All-Star game was in 2002, when he gave up three runs in his only inning. Halladay was on the AL roster in 2003 but did not appear and he missed last year’s game with a fractured tibia that cut short his season, finishing 12-4 with a 2.41 ERA.
His pitch count Sunday could determine how much or even whether he takes the mound Tuesday night.
“I plan on pitching,” Halladay said. “The only thing that might come into play is that last start, if I throw a lot of pitches.”
The right-hander has averaged nearly 96 pitches in 17 starts this season, and threw 100 in 7 2-3 scoreless innings in a 3-2 victory at Texas on Tuesday to win his third straight start.
“That was as strong as I’ve seen him all year,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Halladay is facing Kansas City for the first time this season. He threw a complete-game victory in his only start against the Royals last year, improving to 6-2 with a 3.44 ERA in 10 career starts against them.
Gibbons, meanwhile, was back with the team Saturday after missing two games to be with his ailing father. The team welcomed him back with a 7-5 victory as Shea Hillenbrand hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the seventh inning, helping the Blue Jays snap a three-game losing streak.
Toronto showed signs of breaking out of a hitting slump that has plagued the team during its seven-game road trip. The Blue Jays leads the AL with a .292 batting average, but have hit .225 over the last six games.
“We’ve been hitting all year,” Gibbons said. “That is not going to disappear.”
Kansas City still has won 14 of 21 following its 17-48 start.
Left-hander Jimmy Gobble (3-1, 3.66), who has made 30 relief appearances, will get his second straight start and third of the season. One of 13 pitchers to start for the Royals this season, Gobble has gone 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts.
The left-hander made his first start since May 24 when he beat Minnesota on Tuesday, allowing two runs and five hits in five innings of a 7-2 victory.
“I felt pretty good as far as stamina goes,” Gobble said. “I went out there and tried to throw strikes, keep the ball down and stay aggressive in the strike zone. That was my main key.”