Jays' win filled with milestones
Halladay joins century club, DH Thomas ties Martinez
TORONTO -- Roy Halladay had plenty of time over the past three weeks to sort through a few issues. Besides simply recovering from the emergency appendectomy he underwent on May 11, Toronto's ace wanted to find a way to improve his already impressive pitch arsenal.
Halladay spent hours in the video room, poring over and dissecting footage of his previous trips to the mound. The former American League Cy Young Award winner also sought advice for strengthening his cut fastball -- a pitch that had helped lead to much of his career success, but hadn't been as effective earlier this season.
During down time before games, Halladay began discussing the issue with Toronto's veteran backup catcher, Sal Fasano, who offered a few subtle suggestions for altering the pitch. Fasano's tips worked, evidenced by Halladay's dominating performance on Thursday, when he came off the disabled list and outdueled Mark Buehrle in a 2-0 victory over the White Sox at Rogers Centre.
"We had been talking about different things in the outfield, just kind of tossing things back and forth," Halladay said about the discussions with Fasano. "It's something he brought up and I tried it. I think, regardless of where you are, or who you're talking to, you're always open to ideas. It's just a matter of filtering what's going to help you and what's not."
The change in Halladay's cutter wasn't drastic, by any means. Fasano said that he offered a few tips about varying finger pressure with the grip that creates different types of movement with the pitch. Halladay instantly saw an improvement in the pitch when he toyed with the placement of his index finger on the baseball.
"It just goes to show you the willingness to try stuff by Doc," said Fasano, referring to Halladay. "Finger pressure put in a different position can make a ball dance a different way. I've caught [Yankees closer Mariano Rivera] and I've had guys with great cutters before. It's just an easy transition to make when you know how he throws it and you can say, 'Try this.'"
After trying the revamped pitch in bullpen sessions and a simulated game, Halladay (5-2) used it again in his first start since May 10 for the Jays (25-28). The right-hander cruised against the White Sox, striking out seven and walking none over seven innings en route to his 100th career win.
"To come back with seven shutout innings right out of the gate after three weeks off," Toronto manager John Gibbons said, "when they were talking four to six weeks to begin with, with limited work during those three weeks, I don't know if there's anybody else out there who can do that."
Chicago's hitters were equally impressed.
"He's Roy Halladay -- let's be honest, he's as good as it gets," Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "He's won a Cy Young for a reason. It doesn't matter, DL, no DL, or whatever, the stuff he was firing out there tonight, the way his ball moves, he just didn't make any mistakes."
"He's kind of found a new weapon," he continued. "He used to throw a cutter, but it used to not be as hard. Now, he's throwing it 92 [miles per hour]. It's tough as a lefty, and as a righty, because he doesn't throw anything straight."
Buehrle (2-2) was nearly as effective against Toronto, allowing just two hits over eight innings for the Sox (24-25). Those proved to be the most damaging in the fast-paced affair, which was the quickest game of the year for either team at 1 hour, 50 minutes. In the second inning, Jays second baseman Aaron Hill sent a 1-1 pitch to deep center field for a solo homer to put Toronto ahead, 1-0.
Then, after Buehrle retired the next 16 hitters in a row, Toronto's Frank Thomas sent a pitch to the second deck in left field. That blast marked Thomas' 495th career homer, and his 243rd as a designated hitter, which put him into a tie with Edgar Martinez for first on the all-time list for home runs as a DH.
"We were just kind of hoping that the one home run would hold up," Toronto first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "That's what yo'ure going to get with both [Halladay and Buehrle]. They're not going to give a lot of hits and they're not going to give a lot of runs. It kind of worked out for us."
The closest the White Sox came to scoring against Halladay came in the third inning, when Rob Mackowiak and Juan Uribe opened the frame with consecutive hits. With runners on second and third with no outs, Chicago's Darin Erstad chopped a pitch to Overbay.
The first baseman quickly threw Fasano at home to retire Mackowiak, who was attempting to score. Fasano then caught Erstad stealing -- one of two runners the catcher threw out in the game -- before Halladay induced a ground ball off the bat of Chicago's Tadahito Iguchi to end the threat.
"That saved me pitches, plus runs," Halladay said about Fasano's performance behind the plate. "[Throwing out Erstad] in the third inning, that's a game changer. [Fasano] is absolutely my MVP for today."
That forced a smile from Fasano.
"He's mine, believe me," Fasano replied. "He's a special player. You get around a guy like him once in a while, so you just have to take advantage of the time you get to spend with him."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.