Gaston gets first win in a decade
Blue Jays put together eight runs, 11 hits in series finale
PITTSBURGH -- Cito Gaston laughed at the question. His reaction might have stemmed from the fact that he simply couldn't remember his last victory as the Blue Jays' manager.
In all fairness, it can be tough to recall events that took place more than a decade ago.
"I really don't, to be honest with you," Gaston said with a chuckle. "I don't. It's been a while. It's been a while."
Gaston shouldn't have any trouble remembering his most recent win with the Blue Jays, seeing as it came via an 8-5 decision over the Pirates on a sunny Sunday afternoon at PNC Park. It took 11 years and three games, but Gaston finally found the win column again as Toronto's manager.
The Interleague victory in Pittsburgh was Gaston's first as manager since guiding the Blue Jays to a 3-0 win over the Yankees on Sept. 19, 1997 -- the first year Major League Baseball featured Interleague Play. The win also ended what had been a sour road trip for Toronto.
"That was a big win for us," said Gaston, who replaced John Gibbons as the Jays' manager on Friday.
Only twice in Toronto's history had the club limped to an 0-6 finish on a six-game road trip -- in May of last year and in September 1979. The Blue Jays (36-41) avoided a third instance this time around, snapping a seven-game losing streak and finishing 1-5 on their recent trek through Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.
The victory over the Pirates (36-40) was just the fifth in the past 20 games for the Jays, but Toronto's players have been trying to sift through the wreckage to pull out the positives. Sunday's win included an impressive showing from the Jays' lineup -- a group that's struggled all season.
It's reached a point where every Toronto run seems to warrant a celebration.
"One run's been big for us lately," Jays third baseman Scott Rolen said. "You don't want to celebrate like soccer does, but it seems like that from time to time. We swung the bats well today."
Gaston and Gene Tenace, Toronto's newly-appointed hitting coach, are stressing aggressiveness at the plate, and there certainly didn't appear to be a lack of that against Pittsburgh. The Jays pumped out 11 hits, including two home runs, and finished 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
It marked just the 10th multi-homer game of the season for the Blue Jays, who had every one of their starters -- minus the pitcher's spot -- reach base. Toronto still displayed its signature patience, drawing eight walks, but it was timely extra-base hits that made the difference.
"We're coming out of it, it looks like," Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "We're kind of getting those quality at-bats coming back. Guys are setting the table, too."
It was an offensive showing that helped overcome a rough start from Dustin McGowan (6-5). Over five rocky innings, McGowan surrendered four runs (three earned) on nine hits, finishing with two strikeouts and one walk. Thanks to Toronto's hitters, McGowan managed to walk away the winner.
In the first inning, Marco Scutaro -- leading off for the third game in a row under Gaston -- opened the game with a walk and later scored on a double by Alex Rios. Second baseman Joe Inglett followed Scutaro with a walk and came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Vernon Wells.
Toronto plated two more runs off Pirates starter Ian Snell in the fourth inning. First, Adam Lind, who was promoted from Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday to be the regular left fielder, won a 12-pitch battle with Snell with a solo homer to center field. Later in the frame, the Jays took a 4-1 lead behind another sac fly from Wells.
"We were aggressive," Rolen said. "I think [Snell] had trouble locating early in the game. We put some pressure on him and took some good swings, and we were able to get the barrel on the ball and force some runs across."
That trend continued after Snell's exit. In the sixth inning -- another frame that started with a Scutaro walk -- Overbay stepped to the plate with two outs and delivered a two-run double. That decisive two-base hit put the Blue Jays ahead for good, 6-4, but the offense wasn't done.
Next into the batter's box was Rolen, who smashed a 1-2 pitch from Franquelis Osoria into the left-field seats for a two-run homer. For Rolen, who entered the game batting .175 in his past 15 games, that shot was just his second homer in the past 41 games and only his fourth of the season.
"That was a big home run for us and a big home run for him," Gaston said.
It was certainly a memorable win for Gaston.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.