Blue Jays 7 Reds 5
TORONTO — Nothing comes easy for the Toronto Blue Jays in interleague play, and they proved that again Tuesday in their first home win versus the National League this season.
Set up for a comfortable night thanks to six shutout innings from Brian Tallet along with home runs by Scott Rolen, Rod Barajas and Marco Scutaro, some spotty work by the bullpen turned the final three frames into an adventure in an eventual 7-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
The Blue Jays (39-33), back home after a 4-2 road trip, opened up a 6-0 lead but watched Shawn Camp promptly load the bases to start the seventh and Jesse Carlson only manage to get out of the inning after four runs had scored.
That made things closer than the crowd of 30,351 would have liked, but Brandon League, who gave up a run in the eighth, and Jason Frasor, pitching the ninth for his second save, nailed things down.
“We didn’t come out of the bullpen and pitch too well,” said manager Cito Gaston. “We didn’t throw strikes tonight but we managed to squeeze through it.”
The adventurous end did, at least, add some drama to what had been a clear walk in the park for the Blue Jays, who improved to 5-8 in interleague play overall and 1-3 at home by sending the Reds (34-35) to a third straight loss.
Not even the return of first baseman and Toronto native Joey Votto could help the visitors. Votto went 1-for-4 after coming off the disabled list following a bout with anxiety and panic attacks stemming from the death of his father last summer.
“From about the fourth or fifth inning on I could kind of be myself and just focus on the team and what I can do to help the team,” said Votto. “I hope that today is one of the last days of me getting over that mental block, but we’ll see.”
The Blue Jays hope Tuesday’s win heralds the start of a turnaround against the NL at home, after they were swept by visiting Florida earlier this month. They have two more games against the Reds and three more with Philadelphia remaining.
“More than anything I think it’s we don’t see them a lot,” Tallet said of his team’s interleague troubles. “When you just don’t have a lot of information about a team, it makes them a little tougher to attack, both on the pitching side and the hitting side.”
That didn’t seem to be a problem Tuesday.
Tallet (5-4) looked terrific pitching on short rest in place of Scott Richmond of North Vancouver, B.C., who was given an extra day off after coming out of the bullpen Saturday in Washington.
Featuring great command of his fastball and change-up, Tallet allowed just three hits and a walk while matching a season-high with seven strikeouts, on the heels of a solid outing versus the Nationals on Friday, when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter after just five innings.
There was little offence to back him that night, but plenty in this one.
Rolen opened the scoring in the second when he homered on an 0-2 pitch from Micah Owings (4-8) to open the second and the Blue Jays made it 2-0 later in the frame when Alex Rios singled, stole second and third, and came around on a fielder’s choice by Rod Barajas.
Adam Lind added an RBI single in third, Barajas followed with a solo shot in fourth and Scutaro set his two-run blast over the wall in left in the sixth to make it 6-0.