A grand day for Zaun, Blue Jays
Jays catcher breaks open close game in eighth inning
TORONTO -- Gregg Zaun and the Blue Jays slammed Boston's bullpen on Saturday, turning a close game into a 12-5 rout. Toronto clinched the win with six runs in the eighth inning, keyed by Zaun's grand slam over the right-field fence.
"I knew there were no outs, but I forgot there was a guy at first base. I really wasn't aware it was a grand slam until there were three guys standing at home plate waiting for me," said Zaun. "I'm really impressed with the guys right now, because they don't stop playing. A lot of times last year, we'd get a lead early and the offense would just stop.
"I haven't seen that at all this year. We've been playing the game from the first inning on."
Toronto broke open a one-run game with three straight solo homers in the third frame, but David Ortiz answered them by himself three innings later. Boston's cleanup hitter made it a one-run game again by crushing a three-run shot off the facing of the second deck in center field.
"There's one pitch that I wanted back. Otherwise, I felt pretty good about it," said Roy Halladay, Toronto's starter. "It was just that one pitch to Ortiz, a 2-0 count. I left the ball over the middle of the plate.
"The important thing is we jumped on them late and got a big win out of it."
The Jays (3-2) were ahead for most of the game, starting with two runs in the second inning. The Red Sox chopped that lead in half in the top of the third, setting the stage for the homer heroics.
It all happened in a four-swing sequence off Boston starter David Wells. Vernon Wells homered to left field, and three pitches later, Corey Koskie hit one to virtually the same spot. Finally, Shea Hillenbrand followed with another solo shot over the left-field fence.
Toronto hadn't done that since August 2001, when Shannon Stewart, Carlos Delgado and Raul Mondesi went deep against Minnesota.
"Going into every season is a time of firsts," said Koskie, who had no homers in a Toronto uniform before Saturday. "It was nice to get the first home run and do something to help the team win."
From the third through the fifth innings, Halladay faced just one batter over the minimum. That changed quickly in the sixth: Trot Nixon and Manny Ramirez earned one-out singles, and then Ortiz cashed them both in with a drive over the blackened batter's eye in straightaway center.
Halladay worked six-plus innings and was charged with five earned runs. Toronto manager John Gibbons said Halladay pitched well enough to win, even if he wound up with a no-decision.
"A guy like Ortiz, there's not a better clutch hitter in baseball -- except maybe the guy in front of him [Ramirez]," said Gibbons. "Anytime he comes up with guys on base, he's got a chance to burn you. And he did there.
"[Roy] pitched a great game. He really did. He got up in pitches and tired a little bit, and then the bullpen came through."
Boston (2-3) tied the game in the seventh, loading the bases with one out. Nixon bounced to first base, but Eric Hinske's relay throw to second pulled John McDonald off the bag. The Jays got one out, but the Sox got the tying run. Jason Frasor (1-0) helped keep the game close by fanning Ramirez with men on second and third.
"I stopped the bleeding right there. Runners in scoring position, late in the game, that's a big out," said Frasor, who also pitched a scoreless eighth. "They can take you deep in a hurry. I got my breaking ball over and popped them up all the time. It didn't hit any rafters or anything in the ceiling. It was a good outing."
In the bottom of that frame, Toronto's Alex Rios doubled off Wells (0-2) and moved to third on a one-out bloop single from Russ Adams. The next batter, Frank Catalanotto, singled to left field to push Toronto ahead for good. The Jays turned up the pressure in the eighth, notching six runs off a trio of relievers.
Matt Mantei, John Halama and Blaine Neal all had a hand in the final score. Neal ended up serving the back-breaker, a first-pitch drive over the right-field fence by Zaun. It wasn't just a win, it was a statement, said Toronto's starting catcher.
"A lot of guys could've dropped their head when they came back and tied that game," said Zaun. "You'd like to think, 'With a 5-1 lead and Doc on the hill, that game's in the books.' Certainly not against a team like the Red Sox -- when they come back and tie that game, nobody quits and nobody puts their head down. ... That's a good sign and a big lift for us."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.