There was immense hype and attention surrounding Toronto ace Roy Halladay on Friday as he made what could be his last start as a Blue Jay.
And that couldn't have been any better for Matt Garza.
The Rays starter with the predilection for the spotlight delivered his best start of the season in matching Halladay in a tremendous old-school duel, and his teammates came through in the 10th inning to produce a 4-2 victory.
"It's always fun facing a guy like Halladay," Garza said. "You've got to be tip-top facing a guy like that. I was just trying to match inning for inning with that guy, and pitch for pitch, keep my pitch count around the same area as his and just slugging it out and slugging it out and go the distance with him. And that's what happened."
Garza and Halladay each went nine innings, allowing a pair of runs in what Rays manager Joe Maddon termed "kind of a classic" matchup.
"You don't see that very often anymore, both guys going nine ... and pitching out of tough situations and still having their best stuff in the ninth inning," he said.
Halladay came off after the ninth to a roaring standing ovation from the Rogers Centre crowd of 24,161 fans, who didn't know if they wouldsee him in a Jays uniform again pending a possible trade, though he did say after the game, "Right now, I think I will be here."
The Rays - who had beaten him a majors-high five times in 2008-09 - took advantage of his departure this time, scoring twice off Scott Downs.
Evan Longoria's two-run, two-out bloop double to left capped a rally that started with a walk by Michel Hernandez and included heads-up baserunning by Gabe Kapler in not getting doubled off, a fielder's choice grounder by B.J. Upton and a Carl Crawford walk.
The win improved the Rays to 53-44 and kept them 6-1/2 games behind the first-place Yankees in the AL East. It also guaranteed at least a .500 finish on their 10-game second-half-opening road trip, at 5-3 with two games remaining.
The Rays' first goal was to get a hit, which they did when Crawford singled in the first, ending their outs streak at 29 - the last one Wednesday, 27 straight in Thursday's perfect game by Chicago's Mark Buehrle and the first one Friday.
The next goal was to score, and they got two in the third off Halladay by combining a walk, double, passed ball and two sac flies. And that was it off Halladay, who retired 16 straight in one stretch. For his night, he allowed four hits, fanned 10 and threw 115 pitches.
The Jays answered with two runs in their third, taking advantage of Longoria's throwing error and getting two two-out hits.
But Garza kept them there.
"Probably his best game of the year right there, no question," Maddon said. "He seems to match up well in big moments. I'll tell you what was good. He gave up those two points, very composed through the whole ordeal, sat down, went out and pitched well following that. There was no emotional stuff tonight."
J.P. Howell pitched a perfect 10th inning for his 11th save.
Garza, taking pitching coach Jim Hickey's advice to pitch to contact, allowed five hits, struck out nine and - what he was most proud of - not walking any while throwing 116.
"If I could find what I do different on days like this than the days I don't,'' Garza said, "then I'll find what everybody's looking for.''
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The Rays have had more success against Jays ace Roy Halladay over the past two years than any team, winning six of his eight starts. A look at his work against them, including FridayÕs no-decision:
April 23, 2008....L...8....9...5
July 19, 2008.....L...6....8...5
July 29, 2008.....L...8....6...3
Aug. 26, 2008...W...6....6...2
Sept. 5, 2008....W...7....7...1
June 29, 2009....L...6....5....2
July 9, 2009.......L...7....9....3