Doc earns win as Jays beat Sox late
Rolen's eighth-inning RBI gives Toronto series win
CHICAGO -- The Blue Jays want to sustain this early season run as long as they possibly can. If that means maintaining the same routine every day, then that's exactly what the players plan on doing. No one wants to mess with what has been working.
"You just try to keep doing the things that you're doing on a day-to-day basis and try not to screw anything up," Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill said with a smile. "I don't know if you call it superstition or what."
Whatever the Blue Jays are doing behind the scenes, it paid off again on the field on Sunday in the form of a 4-3 victory over the White Sox. Ace Roy Halladay earned his fourth win of the year and Toronto picked up its sixth consecutive series win to open the season, matching the franchise's best streak out of the gates since the 2001 campaign.
By taking two of three from the Sox at U.S. Cellular Field this weekend, the Jays also claimed their third straight road set to begin the year, establishing a new team record at a season's onset. The latest win ran Toronto's record to 14-6, the best mark in baseball, and the club has yet to lose two consecutive games.
This after the Jays endured their worst defeat of the season one day earlier -- a 10-2 rout for the Sox.
"We've done a good job of bouncing back from poor games," Halladay said. "Really, we've played hard every single day -- that's what you have to do. We've won a lot of series and I think that's because of the approach. Guys are coming in every day to play and there hasn't been any freebies. I haven't felt like we've given games away this year, which is good to see."
Through the season's first 20 games, the Blue Jays have been finding the win column on a frequent basis primarily on the strength of their offense. The group has powered its way to the top of baseball's statistical chart in multiple categories, helping to overcome a variety of issues facing the pitching staff.
On Sunday, Toronto's bats cooled off some against Chicago right-hander Jose Contreras, who completed seven solid innings en route to a no-decision. The Jays managed to churn out 11 hits -- the 10th game this season the club has piled on at least 10 hits -- but stranded nine runners along the way.
The way the lineup has been producing this season, though, Halladay felt the group had a late-inning rally in them.
"There were games last year where we'd give up just enough to lose and could never make it up," Halladay said. "I think that's the difference. When the pressure is on and we need that run or two, we've been able to get it so far this year. That makes a big difference."
Sure enough, with the game pulled into a 3-3 deadlock in the eighth inning, Vernon Wells led off with a double down the left-field line against Chicago reliever Scott Linebrink. After Adam Lind drew a walk, Scott Rolen delivered a single to left that scored Wells, pushing Toronto ahead for good, 4-3.
Through seven innings, Halladay had yielded eight hits and thrown 119 pitches, but Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston was prepared to send him back to the hill for the eighth. After Rolen put Toronto in front, Gaston happily turned to his bullpen, which handcuffed the Sox (9-9) for two innings to seal the win.
"If we had not scored a run, I was going to let him go out," said Gaston, who admitted he was relieved to not have to use Halladay any longer. "Absolutely, because it's not just today's game. We've got a long season and we really can't afford to lose another pitcher right now."
Halladay labored some in the first three innings and said later that he was having issues keeping a few of his pitches down in the strike zone.
In the first inning, Halladay elevated a cut fastball and Chicago's Brent Lillibridge turned it into a leadoff double. One batter later, Lillibridge crossed home plate on a base hit by Josh Fields. In the third, with two outs and runners on second and third base, Halladay left a sinker up in the zone to Paul Konerko, who pulled it into left for a two-run double.
After Konerko's hit gave the White Sox a short-lived, 3-2, lead -- the Jays rallied to tie the game in the fourth -- Halladay settled down and allowed just two harmless singles to the final 14 hitters he faced. During that stretch, Halladay (4-1) struck out five, giving him six on the day to go with a lone walk.
"I just had to make better pitches," Halladay said. "Especially in the third inning, I made some poor pitches that were up. Really, that's what I've been battling to this point -- balls getting elevated.
"You hate to give up a lead like I did today, but I think now more than ever, you feel like -- especially early in the game -- you have a chance to get it back."
That confidence comes with the type of streak that the Blue Jays are currently on. The trick will be for Toronto to find a way to keep the run going.
"If we could avoid back-to-back losses the whole year, we'd end up pretty good," Hill said with a laugh. "Obviously, you want to ride this as long as we can and keep doing what we're doing on a day-to-day basis.
"Guys are getting their work in and not changing anything right now."
Why would they?
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.