Blue Jays 10 Indians 6
TORONTO — Marco Scutaro is enjoying the best season of his career at an opportune time.
Long labelled a super-utility man and no more, the 33-year-old has been among the more productive shortstops in the game thus far in 2009, on pace for new personal bests in virtually every offensive category with free agency looming in the fall.
He added another highlight to his resume Wednesday, going deep twice in his first multi-homer game and matching a career-high with four RBIs in leading the Toronto Blue Jays past the Cleveland Indians 10-6.
“I think consistently, yeah, this is my best year I feel so far,” said Scutaro. “Just because of playing time. That’s pretty much what I’m trying to focus on, being consistent, that’s the toughest thing, especially hitting, because sometimes your swing’s not there every day.”
It’s been there more often than not for the Blue Jays’ leadoff hitter and offensive sparkplug, who is batting .286 with 67 runs scored, eight homers and 43 RBIs. He was in the middle of it all again in this one as his team hit a season-high five home runs in its most productive offensive night in nearly two months.
Scutaro’s play suggests he might have been miscast as a bench player, and puts him in position to land another full-time gig somewhere in the off-season.
“Definitely,” he said. “When you’re a free agent you get opportunities, especially in my situation. I never had an opportunity to play, I had it this year, and I’m just trying to take advantage.”
Will he back in Toronto?
That’s a good question as he may not even finish this season with the Blue Jays. With Roy Halladay on the block, Scutaro, whose US$2.65-million, two-year contract is set to expire, is also believed to be available, and there could be a market for him.
He’s trying to block that out.
“The only thing I control is taking my ground balls, playing hard, getting on base, stuff like that,” he said.
“Off-field stuff, rumours, trades, you really don’t have control over that kind of stuff. Of course when you hear rumours you kind of think about it, but when you get between those two lines you focus and do your job.”
Vernon Wells, Aaron Hill and Alex Rios also went deep Wednesday to give rookie lefty Ricky Romero (8-4) plenty of support before a crowd of 18,375.
The game was a tight affair until the fifth, when the Blue Jays (47-48) built upon their 2-1 lead by posting a five-spot against a shell-shocked Carl Pavano (8-8), whose first four hits allowed each left the yard.
Romero let the Indians (37-58) back into things in the sixth when he served up a three-run shot to Luis Valbuena that ended his night, but Scutaro responded in the bottom of the frame to restore the breathing room with a 10-4 lead.
“If you talk about MVPs on the team, Scutaro would certainly be considered in there,” said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. “He’s done just about everything you could have asked him to do as far as defence, getting on base and driving in some big runs.”
While Scutaro’s second blast effectively put away the AL Central cellar-dwellers, they didn’t simply go away, plating two more in the seventh on Jhonny Peralta’s RBI double and Ben Francisco’s run-scoring single.
But Brandon League and Jason Frasor settled things down from there.