TORONTO – Like any pitcher, Roy Halladay appreciates some early run support.
Kevin Millar, Marco Scutaro and Vernon Wells homered and Toronto put up five runs in the first three innings as the Blue Jays cruised to a 7-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles in Sunday’s rubber match of a three-game series.
“It makes a big difference to get those runs early,” said Halladay, making his second start since the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline passed with him still in a Toronto uniform.
The Blue Jays ace won his first decision since July 19 in front of a crowd of 27,464 at Rogers Centre.
Halladay (12-5) allowed three runs – two of them earned – on nine hits and a walk, to go along with four strikeouts over eight innings.
“I think you try to pitch the same (with a lead) but it’s definitely different,” Halladay said. “I think you realize that mistakes won’t cost you as much. I think you go at it the same but when you do give up a run or two though it’s not as frustrating afterwards.
“Sometimes I think when you score early it kind of takes the wind out of the other team.”
Halladay is 20-4 with a 2.89 earned-run average in 31 career games against the Orioles.
“I think we’ve had pretty good games offensively against them and it’s made a big difference,” Halladay said.
Jason Frasor pitched a scoreless ninth for Toronto.
Baltimore left-hander Brian Matusz (1-1), the fourth player taken in the 2008 draft, allowed seven hits and five runs in 2 2-3 innings in the second major-league start.
The 22-year-old Matusz was bounced in Toronto’s four-run third after two-run homers from Scutaro and Wells.
Scutaro ended the afternoon going 4-for-5 and was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
Millar’s sixth homer of the season tied the game 1-1 in the second inning.
An error by Scutaro at shortstop in the top of the third led to an unearned run on a double by Cesar Izturis as Baltimore took a 2-1 lead.
Scutaro made amends in the bottom of the inning, smacking his career-best 10th homer of the season.
Vernon Wells followed that up with his 12th of the year.
The Blue Jays scored a total of eight runs in Halladay’s past four losses.
In his past two wins, 3-1 over the Boston Red Sox on July 19 and 4-0 over the Kansas City Royals on June 7, he pitched nine innings.
“It’s the first time he’s had some run support in a long time,” said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. “I know that it certainly feels good for me to see that happen for Doc. It gives him some breathing room out there.”
“At the start of the season we did score him some runs and it looked like he was going to cruise to an easy 20 wins,” Gaston said. “As of late we haven’t scored him many runs.”
Gaston added that the trade rumours surrounding Halladay as the Blue Jays entertained offers didn’t affect his ace.
“He’s all business when he goes out there,” Gaston said. “He’s not going to let that bother him. To me it’s just the fact that we couldn’t score him runs. That’s quite a strain sometimes.”
Halladay’s one-out walk to Aubrey Huff and singles by Melvin Mora and Luke Scott produced an Oriole run in the second.
With Baltimore leading 2-1, Jose Bautista singled to lead off the Toronto half of the third and Scutaro homered. Wells followed a Millar walk with his homer to put the Blue Jays ahead 5-2. Wells finished 2-for-3 with three runs batted in, while Millar was 3-for-3.
An Alex Rios single chased Matusz, who was replaced by Brian Bass.
Melvin Mora’s two-out single in the sixth scoring Adam Jones cut the Blue Jays lead to 5-3.
But Toronto got some insurance in the seventh off reliever Matt Albers thanks to run-scoring singles from Millar and Wells.
Notes: Brett Cecil who left Saturday’s start, a 3-2 victory in 10 innings for the Blue Jays, with irritation in his left knee after 4 1-3 innings, will miss at least his next scheduled start. He has been told he has a couple of small tears in the knee. … Marc Rzepczynski (1-3, 3.74 ERA), Scott Richmond (6-6, 3.97 ERA) and Ricky Romero (10-5, 3.66 ERA) are scheduled to start for the Blue Jays in their three-game series at Yankee Stadium that opens on Monday. Sergio Mitre (1-0, 7.50 ERA), Joba Chamberlain (8-2, 3.73 ERA) and A.J. Burnett (10-5, 3.67 ERA) will start for the Yankees. … Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who fouled a ball off his shin in the first inning of Saturday’s game and was replaced in the third inning, did not start on Sunday and is listed as day-to-day. … Former Jays closer Tom Henke threw out the ceremonial first pitch.