Compared with the four-hour bout the Red Sox had Tuesday with the Rangers, last night's matchup between Roy Halladay and Paul Byrd seemed more inclined to the virtuoso.
Two pitchers dedicated to throwing strikes, getting the ball back, and throwing more strikes.
It was certainly nice for those in the crowd of 37,834 who wanted to make it home in time to see Michael Phelps go after his eighth gold medal. It was less nice for those who wanted to see a Red Sox win.
In an always-moving 2 hours 18 minutes, Halladay not only outdueled Byrd in their second matchup in a week, this one a 4-1 win for the Blue Jays, he slowed bats that had gone into overdrive in the three games against the Rangers.
"I wish we were on the other end of this, but the pitchers got it, they threw it, they threw it over the plate," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It's a fun game to play defense in. I guarantee if you ask our guys, they'll say that, and I know their guys feel that way. They love playing behind [Halladay]; there's a reason."
Speed, sure. But dominance, too.
With the Sox coming off a ridiculously offensive series with the Rangers in which they scored 37 runs in three games, Halladay did his best to end the fun at Fenway, throwing 109 pitches for his major league-leading eighth complete game of the season. It wasn't unexpected. Asked Friday if he thought the Sox could continue their onslaught, Francona said, "Depends on how Halladay pitches. He'll have something to say about that."
He did, of course, stymieing the Sox for nine magnificent innings, though he did allow a homer to Dustin Pedroia on the first pitch of the ninth. Halladay gave up just seven hits to a team that had at least seven hits in two separate innings against the Rangers last week. Helped by three double plays, Halladay exacted a bit of revenge on Byrd, who lasted 7 1/3 innings in his Sox debut and had the distinction of allowing neither a walk nor getting a strikeout.
"Man, he should make a pitching video," Pedroia said about Halladay. "He's pretty tough. He throws strikes, he's got great stuff. It's tough to get in a rhythm on him because he's creating his own rhythm for himself. We didn't get anything going. We hit some balls good, but not enough to get anything started. He pretty much controlled us the whole night. That's why he's one of the best in the league."
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi has not been shy about acknowledging the Blue Jays' problems. They've got the pitching, certainly, but the offense hasn't been there. Partly because of unimpressive seasons from Alex Rios and Vernon Wells, the Blue Jays simply haven't scored enough to support their starters, who stand fourth in the American League in ERA.
Last night, though, they had more than enough. Halladay managed to shut down the Sox' offense, while one of those disappointing hitters, Rios, took care of all the offense Toronto needed - all before Byrd registered his first full inning in Boston.
Though it might not have hurt physically quite as much as the ball Lyle Overbay lined off Byrd's left instep in the fourth, the two-run home run by Rios did no less damage. But even that could have been worse.
After giving up a single to Joe Inglett to begin his Sox career, Byrd made up for it quickly. With Marco Scutaro at the plate, and the count 1 and 2, Byrd threw over to first. The throw was a bit high, but Sean Casey nabbed it and got the tag on Inglett before he could get back to the bag. After Scutaro proceeded to single to right two pitches later, there was retribution.
On a 1-and-1 pitch, Rios slammed a shot into the Monster seats, putting the Blue Jays up, 2-0. Three straight hits - including his first home run allowed in 37 1/3 innings - and Byrd wasn't likely feeling the love early in his Sox career.
"The pitch to Rios bothers me," Byrd said. "I think I was just trying to strike some people out, I was just a little excited, trying to overthrow. I settled down after that, just got ground balls, fly balls, which is kind of my game, just putting the ball in play."
Not that he pitched poorly. If the Sox could have just capitalized in the first inning, when they had runners on first and second, it could have been different. J.D. Drew smoked the ball to center field, but Wells tracked it down. After that, there wasn't much the Sox could do.
"On a lot of nights, that was probably good enough," Francona said of Byrd's performance. "Not tonight. Halladay was too much for us; cutting it, sinking it, throwing a lot of strikes with good stuff down in the zone."
Their last time out, Byrd - then a member of the Indians - got the win and a complete game against Halladay. But that wouldn't happen again. Halladay didn't let it happen again.
Not only did Byrd break his homerless streak in the first inning, it happened again in the sixth. This time it occurred on an 82-mile-per-hour changeup to Adam Lind, the ball reaching the second row of the Monster seats and extending the Blue Jays' lead to 3-0. Rios tripled in the eighth, and came home on a single by Wells to provide their final score.
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.