- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2003

Roy Halladay is a 6-foot-6 mountain man who looks even more menacing with his red beard and no mustache. And that’s before the Denver native and Toronto Blue Jays ace unleashes his overpowering right arm.

Halladay has gone from a marginal major leaguer to the game’s hottest pitcher in a two-year span. Tonight the Blue Jays’ giant will attempt to fire his way into the American League record book with his 16th consecutive victory.

“If it happens, that’s great,” Halladay said of his start tonight in Anaheim. “If it doesn’t, you went out and did the best you can. It would definitely be an honor but not something I’m overly concerned with.”

Halladay has drawn comparisons to Roger Clemens for his power, Greg Maddux for his control and Kevin Brown for his nasty sinker. All this from a gangly 26-year-old who fell to the lower minors in 2001 before changing to a three-quarters pitching motion.

Five AL pitchers have won 16 straight, starting with Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators and Joe Wood of the Boston Red Sox, both in 1912. Clemens, who did it with the New York Yankees in 2001, is the only player to do it in the last 60 years.

“It’s fun to have your name next to somebody like that,” said Halladay, who hasn’t lost in his last 18 starts. “It’s nice to get numbers like that, but you have to understand why you got it, and the reason is we’ve been scoring a lot of runs.”

That kind of humility and focus are factors in the streak by Halladay, known as “Doc” by teammates. Sure, he has gotten offensive help in some outings, but the overriding factor has been his amazing consistency.

Halladay has impeccable control and begins with a fastball in the mid-90 mph range. He is an expert at moving it within the strike zone and using a heavy sinker or baffling cutter.

“I haven’t really been around a pitcher that’s been that dominating,” said Blue Jays shortstop Mike Bordick, in his 14th major league season. “I have been with [Mike] Mussina [in Baltimore] where he has been able to throw all his pitches for strikes and he is just cutting guys down. … Doc is a power guy. He is going to come at you. It is pretty impressive to see some guy with that much power coming after you — like Roger Clemens does.”

The season didn’t begin as something special for Halladay, who was coming off an All-Star year with a 19-7 record and 2.93 ERA. In his first six starts, he went 0-2 with a 4.89 ERA. The streak began when he gave up four runs in seven innings in a 7-6 win over Texas. He was even less dazzling in his next victory, allowing five runs in seven innings in a 15-5 pounding of Texas.

Halladay has had 98 strikeouts and 14 walks in the streak, a remarkable 7-to-1 ratio, and is averaging 7⅔ innings with a 2.84 ERA. His 15 wins and 175 innings lead the league.

His last win came Saturday against Baltimore after he pitched seven shutout innings without a walk in a 10-1 victory. It was also typical how he picked up his 14th win — with five strikeouts and no walks in a complete-game 5-2 victory at Boston.

Halladay couldn’t make Toronto’s major league roster in 2001, beginning his seventh pro season at Class A Dunedin, Fla. The 17th overall pick in the 1995 draft, he was demoted after he spent the second half of the 2000 season in Toronto, going 4-7 with an 10.64 ERA.

Working with manager Mel Queen and pitching coach Bruce Walton in Dunedin, Halladay changed from an overhand motion to a three-quarters release and revived his baseball life. He also developed a new confidence, work ethic and focus.

“There’s no panic, no overthrowing, no stress — just conviction and strength,” Toronto pitching coach Gil Patterson said. “Our job is simple: just go on the mound and throw a baseball. But everyone always sees the hitter in the box, the score of the game — he doesn’t. He says, ‘My job is to make pitches. That’s all I’m going to do.’ Umpires, errors, runs, who the hitter is doesn’t affect him.”

Nor does a winning streak reaching record proportions.

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