Blue Jays 9 Athletics 3
TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays love having Shaun Marcum on the mound. Sunday, they finally gave him some help.
Alex Gonzalez, Fred Lewis and Aaron Hill hit home runs in the Blue Jays’ 9-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics, putting Marcum in the win column for the first time since September 2008.
The victory gave the Blue Jays a 3-1 record in the four-game series and 3-4 on the homestand. They are 13-13 record for the season as they embark on a 10-game trip to Cleveland, Chicago and Boston. Oakland also is 13-13.
Marcum (1-1) allowed six hits, four walks and one run in 6 1/3 innings in his sixth start of the season. The victory was much longer in coming for Marcum, who underwent reconstructive surgery at the end of the 2008 season and missed all of 2009.
He has pitched well to open the season — Sunday’s start lowered his earned-run average to 3.12 — but thanks to precious little run support from his offence, it didn’t translate into a victory until Sunday.
“I love him when he’s on the mound,” said Hill, who a run-scoring double and single to go with his second homer of the season. “He just wants the ball, pounds the strike zone, he’s a bulldog on the mound, he works quick.
“It’s good to have him back and good to give him the run support for his first win.”
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston noted that Marcum won despite not having his best stuff.
“You know Marcum has pitched better than that,” said Gaston. “We just happened to score some runs for him today, something we haven’t done in the past. I think we probably averaged two runs a ballgame for him.”
Marcum was able to contain his enthusiasm.
“I’ll go grab some sushi later and maybe it’ll hit me then,” he said. “Other than that it’s just a game to me we won, that’s all I’m worried about.”
Oakland starter Ben Sheets (1-3), who also missed 2009 after undergoing elbow surgery, allowed 10 hits and nine runs in 3 1/3 innings as his earned-run average soared to 7.12.
The three hits brought Hill’s batting average up to .206. He has struggled so far this season, which has included a stint on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.
Hitting coach Dwayne Murphy worked with Hill before the game.
“He got off to a bit of a bad start and then he got hurt,” Gaston said. “It takes a bit to get that timing back. I think he might have found something out down there today as far as getting his hands started a bit sooner. I hope that gets him back to where he was last year.”
Hill said he just needs to find his rhythm.
“Always got to remember, short and quick (swing), not to get too long,” Hill said. “It‘s all a timing issue — 30 to 40 at-bats is really nothing in the grand scheme of things. You have to keep that in perspective and don’t panic, just keep going out there and doing your thing.”
The Blue Jays scored four runs in a first inning that began with a leadoff walk and stolen base by Lewis. Hill and Vernon Wells doubled, and Gonzalez followed with his eighth homer of the season to tie Wells for the team lead.
Buck led off the Blue Jays’ second with a double and John McDonald tripled. Lewis hit a sacrifice fly to left for a 6-0 lead.
The Athletics loaded the bases with none out in the third on singles by Kevin Kouzmanoff and Eric Chavez and a walk to Adam Rosales. Rajai Davis brought home a run with a two-out single, but Marcum escaped further damage.
The Blue Jays countered in the bottom of the fourth with a double by McDonald and back-to-back homers by Lewis and Hill. After Wells singled with two out, left-hander Brad Kilby took over from Sheets.
Marcum left the game with runners at the corners and one out in the seventh and was given an warm ovation by the Rogers Centre crowd of 14,275. Left-hander Rommie Lewis replaced him and allowed two runs in the eighth.