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Saunders settles, but Halos stall in loss

Saunders settles, but Halos stall in loss

TORONTO -- Pitching like a man with a Cy Young Award on his mantle and the desire to add to his collection, Roy Halladay showed the Angels why the Blue Jays still have something to chirp about.

Halladay went the distance and outdueled Joe Saunders, ending the southpaw's perfect season, in Tuesday night's 4-1 Blue Jays victory at Rogers Centre.

The Angels came out of the chute with a first-inning run manufactured by Chone Figgins, but the good feeling didn't last long for the California tourists.

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The Jays responded with four runs of their own in the bottom half on four hits and a pair of errors by the Angels, who committed two more in one of their sloppiest defensive efforts of the season.

"That's the first time I've seen him pitch in person, and it was really impressive," Saunders said of Halladay, the 2003 American League Cy Young winner. "Seems like every time I put my hat down and took a drink of water, I was taking two steps to get back on the field again."

Working quickly and throwing 71 strikes among 99 deliveries, Halladay made swift work of the Angels, finishing his task two minutes shy of two hours. With the likes of Al Downing, Randy Jones and Bob Gibson distant memories, you don't see 1:58 very often under time of game.

After Figgins' leadoff single, his 33rd steal and Vladimir Guerrero's RBI single, the Angels were handcuffed by Halladay, who put four pitches pretty much wherever he wanted, on command.

The Angels didn't collect another hit until Jeff Mathis' bunt single leading off the sixth. Halladay (14-5 with the win) quickly induced two grounders worth three outs to shut it down.

Maicer Izturis' two-out single in the eighth and Figgins' one-out single in the ninth were all Halladay allowed on his way to the finish line for his league-high fifth complete game.

The Angels have four as a team, three by Kelvim Escobar.

Reed Johnson's leadoff triple and an RBI single by Lyle Overbay got the Jays rolling in the first against Saunders, who fell to 6-1. The first of two errors by shortstop Erick Aybar and an error by Mathis on a rundown play assisted the Jays, who got an RBI double by Aaron Hill and sacrifice flies by Frank Thomas and Hector Luna in the first.

Saunders found his groove after that shaky beginning, scattering four singles the rest of the way while striking out four. But, matched against one of the game's premier pitchers, it was too little too late.

"It was just a matter of getting through the first inning," Saunders said. "I was struggling to throw strikes. The ball was cutting; I needed to make adjustments. I was cutting across my body a little bit, missing my spots a little."

Aybar's error on Vernon Wells' grounder complicated things, and Mathis dropped the ball after a grounder by Gregg Zahn had Wells caught.

"Guys are human -- they're going to make errors, and I'm going to make bad pitches," said a forgiving Saunders. "It was just one of those games. If I made a bad pitch, they hit it."

Figgins' throwing error on a Frank Thomas grounder in the third was erased by a double-play grounder. Aybar's second error, on a grounder leading off the fourth, also didn't cost Saunders.

"He's an unbelievable shortstop, with unbelievable range," Saunders said of Aybar, making a rare start at the position with Orlando Cabrera given the night off. "You can put him anywhere and he's going to make plays for you. He let a couple balls eat him up; that's going to happen.

"My job is to pick them up. It's sort of a see-saw situation."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia clearly didn't like what he saw, but it's old news now with his live for the moment mantra.

"The mistakes were very obvious," Scioscia said. "The way we got down early was disappointing. If they hit the ball and came away with four runs, fine. But that should have been a 2-1 game coming out of the first inning.

"It's uncharacteristic of the way we've played this year to have a game like this. We just have to turn the page."

The Angels had been averaging 6.7 runs per game behind Saunders, winning his past eight starts after he opened the season with a no-decision in a 4-3 loss to Oakland.

Going back to last season, Saunders had a streak of eight consecutive wins snapped by the Jays.

Halladay wasted no time and little effort in subduing an Angels attack that had produced 40 runs against Boston and Minnesota in going 5-1 on the just-concluded homestand.

"There aren't many people who can do so many different things with a baseball he can -- and marry it with the command," Scioscia said of Halladay. "He's an elite pitcher. Tonight was an indication. Unfortunately, we saw it first-hand."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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