Top Yankees praise 'dominating' Halladay
Blue Jays ace seeking 15th win of season, series victory Thursday against New York
In a series filled with impressive pitching performances, the New York Yankees are hoping they don't see yet another one from Roy Halladay.
The Toronto Blue Jays' ace will look to continue his dominance of New York on Thursday, when the American League East rivals decide their three-game set at Rogers Centre (7:07 p.m. ET).
Halladay, with a 14-9 record and 2.64 earned-run average on the season, is having another Cy Young-calibre season, ranking in the AL's top five in wins, ERA and strikeouts (159) while leading the league in innings pitched (191).
The right-hander is 6-3 with a 1.81 ERA and three complete games in his last nine starts. One of those was a two-hit shutout of the Yankees on July 11, when he struck out eight in the Blue Jays' 5-0 win, prompting Derek Jeter to call Halladay the best starter in baseball.
"He was dominating," Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "We weren't even close."
Halladay has haunted the Yankees for much of this decade, going 9-2 with a 2.04 ERA in his last 15 starts against them. In his last seven home starts versus New York, he's 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
Despite throwing a season-high 130 pitches in his previous outing, Halladay tossed his AL-leading eighth complete game Saturday at Boston, a seven-hitter in a 4-1 win over Boston.
"Doc is pitching like a Hall of Famer pitches," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "He's been doing that for years, when he stays healthy."
As the clubs have split the first two games of their series, three pitchers have already turned in stellar performances.
New York's Darrell Rasner and Toronto's A.J. Burnett dueled into the late innings on Tuesday, when Burnett struck out 13 in eight innings of the Blue Jays' 2-1 victory.
Andy Pettitte responded with seven efficient innings in the Yankees' 5-1 win Wednesday — their second in their last eight road games.
Jeter went 3-for-5 with a home run, improving to 16-for-28 (.571) in his last six games. He's 19-for-72 (.264) with 19 strikeouts in his career against Halladay.
Yankees still battling
After Boston lost 11-6 at Baltimore, New York (67-59) moved back within 5½ games of the Red Sox in the race for the AL wild card as it tries to dig out of a hole and earn its 14th consecutive postseason berth.
"You almost feel like nothing is insurmountable," Pettitte said. "When people think you're out, you almost want to prove them wrong more."
"We've been around for a lot of things — good times, bad times," Jeter said. "We understand there's a sense of urgency but I think everyone understands that."
The Blue Jays (65-61) remained 7½ games behind Boston, which is idle Thursday.
Toronto still has 10 games left against the Red Sox, starting with three at home this weekend.
It will try to make up ground against New York's Sidney Ponson (7-3, 4.19) Thursday.
The right-hander is 3-2 with a 4.50 ERA in nine starts since the Yankees signed him June 18.
Ponson pitched well against Kansas City on Saturday, allowing two runs in 6 1/3 frames of New York's 3-2, 13-inning win. His last start against Toronto came on July 23, 2006, when he was chased after allowing six runs in 2 1/3 innings in one of his three starts for the Yankees that season.
He's 7-10 with a 4.59 ERA lifetime against the Blue Jays.
Toronto designated hitter/outfielder Matt Stairs has owned Ponson, going 9-for-24 (.375) in his career with four homers.