Pitching in mid-August is unfamiliar territory for Roy Halladay, but not unchartered.
The staff ace of the Toronto Blue Jays seeks his major league-leading 15th victory Tuesday when the Toronto Blue Jays continue their 10-game road trip with the opener of a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Halladay (14-3, 3.23 ERA) has not pitched this deep into a season since 2003, when he went 22-7 and won the American League Cy Young Award. His last two years curtailed by injuries, the right-hander enters this start tied with Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and Detroit Tigers starter Justin Verlander at 14 wins.
Halladay’s .824 winning percentage, though, leads the trio. Schilling is slated to pitch Tuesday against the Tigers, while Verlander will face the Red Sox on Wednesday.
The Blue Jays’ ace avoided losing consecutive starts for the first time this season by defeating the Baltimore Orioles last Wednesday. Halladay allowed three runs in 7 1-3 innings for just his second win in six starts and atoned for a poor start Aug. 4, when he squandered a three-run lead to the Chicago White Sox and yielded a season high-tying five runs.
“It just seemed to be one of those games where you felt it was going to come down to one or two runs,” Halladay said. “It’s just nice to be able to get the lead like that and be able to hold it.”
After losing to the Devil Rays on April 9, Halladay has condeded just four runs and 15 hits in 25 2-3 innings while winning his last three against them. The right-hander is 7-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 19 lifetime starts against Tampa.
Toronto (63-55) was denied a sweep of a four-game series at Minnesota, losing 5-0 on Sunday. The Blue Jays, who are seven games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East and eight in back of the White Sox in the AL wild-card race, have won six of their last eight games.
“It was very important to win three of four,” Blue Jays left fielder Frank Catalanotto said. “We would’ve liked to finish the sweep and we’re a little disappointed because we were in position to do so.”
The Devil Rays (47-71) are trying to snap a six-game losing streak as they begin a 10-game homestand that also will include series against the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers. Tampa was swept in a pair of three-game series by Seattle and Oakland, capped by a 3-1 loss Sunday to the Athletics.
Tim Corcoran allowed just three hits in seven innings, but one was a two-run homer to Eric Chavez as the Devil Rays lost for the 15th time in their last 16 road games and fell to 8-21 since the All-Star break.
“We’ve had some sloppy games,” Devil Rays first baseman Greg Norton said. “We’re a team that needs to play a clean game to compete and win … especially in the division we’re in.”
Jae Seo (1-5, 4.50) hopes for some run support as he looks for his first win since July 29. The right-hander limited the Seattle Mariners to an unearned run in seven innings last Tuesday, but did not factor in the decision of Tampa’s 5-1, 10-inning loss.
Seo, who has gotten just one run of support while limiting opponents to two runs and 12 hits over 13 2-3 innings in his last two starts, is making his first appearance against the Blue Jays.