As pitching staffs have become more specialized, Roy Halladay continues to be a throwback.
The major league leader in complete games, Halladay looks to add to that total - and record his first win in six starts - as the Toronto Blue Jays continue their weekend series against the lowly Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.
Halladay (14-7, 3.91 ERA) has pitched seven complete games in 2007, the most since Montreal’s Livan Hernandez had eight in 2003. But Halladay’s last win came on Aug. 14 in Toronto (73-74), where he beat the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels. In five starts after that, the 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner is 0-2 with a 3.59 ERA.
Despite failing to break into the win column, he’s gone at least eight innings in all of those outings, including two complete games.
The winless stretch started at home against Baltimore on Aug. 19 , when he allowed two runs and six hits through nine. Reliever Scott Downs, though, got the victory when Toronto pushed across a run in the 10th for a 3-2 win.
On Monday, Halladay was one out away from another complete game, exiting with a 4-3 lead over Detroit after giving up three hits in the ninth. This time, though, Casey Janssen gave up two straight hits and a walk before serving up Magglio Ordonez’s two-run single that capped a 5-4 loss.
This season, Halladay is 4-3 with a 1.92 ERA when he goes the distance, yet he’s struggled in his last two complete-game efforts. In road games against the Angels on Aug. 24 and at Boston on Sept. 4, Halladay has been reached for eight runs and 21 hits in 16 innings, losing both times. When pitching a complete game at home this season, Halladay is 4-0 with a 0.73 ERA.
Overall at Rogers Centre, Halladay is 8-2 with a 2.52 ERA in 11 career starts against the Orioles, and his 14 career wins over Baltimore are the most he’s posted against one team.
Kurt Birkins (1-1, 7.27) will make just his second major league start for Baltimore, and his first appearance this season against Toronto. The left-hander got the nod over former Blue Jay Victor Zambrano, who Orioles manager Dave Trembley wants to pitch out of the bullpen for now.
Birkins faced Toronto four times in relief last season, posting a 1-0 record and allowing only two hits in 3 2-3 innings.
His lone start this year came on the road in a 9-7 loss to Tampa Bay on Sept. 3 in which he gave up four runs and six hits over four innings, but didn’t get a decision. He hasn’t pitched since allowing a run and three hits in 1 1-3 innings on Tuesday in a 10-5 loss to the Angels.
The Orioles (63-83), who are trying to avoid finishing last in the AL East for the first time since 1988, are 2-12 this year in games when Birkins pitches. They’re also trying to build off an impressive outing from another young pitcher.
Brian Burres scattered eight hits over seven innings and didn’t walk a batter Friday in a 6-2 win over the Blue Jays. It was Burres’ first start since Aug. 4.
Tike Redman had three hits and an RBI for Baltimore, which is going for its first three-game winning streak since a season high-tying six-game run from July 22-28.
Aaron Hill and Hector Luna hit solo homers off Jamie Walker in the ninth for the Blue Jays, who dropped below .500 for the first time since Aug. 1 and were eliminated from contention in the AL East. Toronto has scored only 17 runs in its last seven games, losing six.
“You’ve got to score in this league and we’re not scoring,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.