(Sports Network) - While Toronto residents will no longer be able to get a close-up view of their former hurler, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston knows Roy Halladay is dangerous no matter where he pitches.
The Jays will get their first-ever look at Halladay in an enemy uniform this evening when they "host" the Phillies in the opener of a three-game interleague series at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park.
Tonight was supposed to mark Halladay's return to Toronto, where he pitched for 12 seasons from 1998-2009 and went 148-76 with a 3.43 earned run average in 328 games after the Blue Jays made him the 17th overall pick of the 1995 draft.
However, because of security concerns in Toronto due to the presence of world leaders for the G20 Summit, Major League Baseball decided on May 11 to shift this series from the Rogers Centre to south Philly. The Blue Jays will still be considered the home team and will bat last, and the interleague matchup will still feature the DH rule despite the National League park.
Halladay won 16 or more games six times with the Blue Jays, went to six All- Star Games and won the 2003 AL Cy Young Award, but never reached the postseason with the club. That fact was part of the reason the 33-year-old was dealt to the two-time defending NL champion Phillies rather than Toronto risk losing him to free agency.
"He's another one of the guys that I pull for when he's not pitching against us," Gaston told Toronto's website of Halladay. "He's gong to be a tough opponent, whether we play him here or there, it's going to be tough."
Halladay has hit a bit of a rough patch with the Phillies, as he has lost his last three starts and is pitching to a 4.09 ERA in that span while getting just four runs of support. In fact, Halladay is 8-6 with a 2.43 ERA on the season and has received just nine runs of support in his six losses.
The right-hander has also allowed five homers in his last two starts, including a pair to the Twins on Sunday in a 4-1 setback that saw him allow four runs (three earned) over eight innings with eight strikeouts.
"Executing pitches is first and foremost, whether we're scoring nine or none, that'll never change," Halladay told Philadelphia's website. "For me it's important to keep that focus on that and keep that approach."
He'll need to tonight seeing as the Blue Jays lead the majors with 111 homers. Three of those came in Thursday's 5-0 victory over the Cardinals that snapped their three-game losing streak.
Philadelphia will be glad to stay at Citizens Bank Park after going 4-2 in its last six games there. The club hit .292 in that span and scored 41 runs and defeated the Indians, 12-3, on Thursday to finish off a three-game sweep and get within 2 1/2 games of first place in the NL East.
The Phillies posted 15 hits in the rout, getting four from Placido Polanco and three each from Chase Utley and Jayson Werth. The victory improved Philadelphia to 8-7 versus the American League this year and it picked up its first interleague sweep since June 11-13, 2007.
"As a whole in the clubhouse, we like the way we're playing right now," said starter Joe Blanton after throwing 7 2/3 innings of three-run ball. "For the past couple of games, the bats look alive, the fielder's are doing an outstanding job, we've had some pretty decent pitching, [and] the bullpen's been phenomenal."
Jesse Litsch will make his third start for the Jays since recovering from Tommy John surgery and the righty will have to deal with a pair of Phillies that appear to be breaking out of slumps.
Utley is hitting .394 (13-for-33) over his last nine games with a homer and eight RBI, while Werth is batting .387 (12-for-31) in his last 10 games with three homers, 10 RBI and seven walks.
They'll take their swings tonight at Litsch, who was drilled for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings of his season debut on June 13 versus the Rockies before posting seven scoreless innings versus the Giants on Sunday. The 25-year-old allowed just three hits, but got a no-decision in his team's eventual 3-0 victory.
"I was mixing my pitches better," said Litsch on Toronto's website. "Last time, I got cutter-happy and they were sitting on it. ... We worked on sinking the ball more and just working on the whole repertoire instead of just a couple pitches. From there, we just rolled with it."
Litsch is 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in one start and one relief appearance versus the Phillies and is 1-4 with a 6.14 ERA in seven career interleague games.
The Blue Jays won four of six versus the Phillies last year, taking all three games at Citizens Bank Park. They have won their last five trips to Philadelphia overall.