Halladay leads Blue Jays past Mariners 5-0
“It was typical Doc, he was lights out,” Hill said.
Halladay turned in a gem in what could be his final home start with the Blue Jays, tying Kansas City’s Zack Greinke(notes) for the major league lead with his third shutout. He got a standing ovation from the crowd of 20,668 when he took the mound for the ninth, then tipped his cap as he walked off to even louder cheers after it was done.
“Those are things you take with you, that you’re going to tell your kids about,” Halladay said. “Regardless of what happens this winter, it means a lot to me. To have that many people that supportive and chanting, I think it would mean a lot to anybody.
“I can’t remember many times going out for the ninth where people are cheering and standing up before the inning starts,” Halladay added. “Maybe I was more aware, I don’t know. You definitely feel the excitement and somehow show your appreciation.”
While still well below capacity, the lively crowd was a welcome change for the Blue Jays, who have seen attendance dip dramatically at recent games. Just 11,159 showed up for Halladay’s previous home start, Sept. 9 against Minnesota. That was the fewest in the 20-year history of Rogers Centre and the first of four straight crowds below 12,000.
“It was nice to have more than 10,000 people in the stands today,” Hill said.
The subject of rampant trade speculation leading up to the July 31 deadline, there’s no guarantee that Halladay, a free agent after 2010, will be back with the Blue Jays next season.
“You have to do what makes sense,” Toronto manager Cito Gaston said before the game. “If it makes sense to bring him back, if you’ve got a chance to win or certainly get a wild card then hey, you would think about hanging on to Doc. If you didn’t, you would maybe think it is time to move him and get something for him while you can.”
Halladay, who has one more start left, said he won’t think about his future until after the season but acknowledged he’d prefer to taste success in Toronto than be a newcomer on an established contender.
“I would think what every player would want is to win where you came up and to win where you spent all your time,” Halladay said. “I think that would be the ultimate. Places like this become a part of you the longer you’re here and that would always be the ultimate.”
As is now its custom, the entire Blue Jays groundskeeping staff lined up behind the third-base coach’s box to applaud Halladay as he walked in from the bullpen before the game.
Halladay (16-10) got off to a solid start, needing just three pitches to catch leadoff batter Ichiro Suzuki(notes) looking at strike three. He threw 114 pitches, 81 for strikes, and lowered his ERA to 2.90, third best in the AL behind Greinke and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez(notes). He threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 33 batters he faced and never went to a three-ball count.
“He’s got a heck of a resume,” Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said. “You go into a game like this, because of the Cy Youngs and everything else, and you know you’ve got to be on your game. It’s very difficult to square pitches up off him.”
As a measure of Halladay’s great stuff, Wakamatsu spoke of the bruised shins of Franklin Gutierrez(notes), Suzuki and Adrian Beltre(notes), all of whom fouled pitches off their legs. Suzuki was replaced by Bill Hall(notes) after fouling a ball off his right foot in his final at-bat, and Wakamatsu said Beltre likely will sit Saturday because of a sore left leg.
Hill hit a two-run drive to left in the sixth for his team-best 34th homer, and Fister left in the seventh after yielding consecutive two-out singles to Travis Snider(notes) and John McDonald(notes). Chris Jakubauskas(notes) came on and both runners advanced on a wild pitch before scoring on Jose Bautista’s(notes) ground-ball single through the left side.
Fister, who has lost three straight starts, allowed four runs and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings.
“I thought he threw a heck of a ballgame,” Wakamatsu said. “The line doesn’t read quite as good, giving up the two runs on a ground ball when Jakubauskas came in.”
NOTES: Mariners 1B Russell Branyan(notes) (back) took batting practice for the second straight day but was too sore to take grounders. … A group of fans in the upper deck hung a banner that read “Fire J.P.!” a reference to Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi. Security confiscated the banner in the bottom of the second. … Brothers Kyle Phillips(notes), a Toronto catching prospect, and Jason Phillips(notes), Seattle’s bullpen catcher, raced one another on the field before the game, with younger brother Kyle coming out the winner.