Buck, Romero lead Jays past A's
Catcher hits three homers; southpaw tosses quality start
TORONTO -- As John Buck approached the plate in the eighth inning of Thursday's game against the A's, he could barely hear himself think.
The crowd on hand at Rogers Centre rose to its feat and joined together in a chant of, "Buck! Buck! Buck!" Toronto's 6-3 win was close to being in the books -- thanks to a solid effort from starter Ricky Romero and Buck's heroics -- but that was not enough.
The fans were hoping to witness history -- a fourth home run in a single game from one of Toronto's players -- and Buck tried to deliver.
After falling into an 0-2 count against A's reliever Brad Ziegler, the big catcher took one final monstrous hack, sending the ball sky-high and eventually into the glove of Oakland right fielder Ryan Sweeney for a routine out.
"He was going to come after me -- that's just his style," said Buck, recounting his final at-bat of the night. "He was not going to back down for anybody, especially not me. I took a good swing at that slider he threw me at the end, but oh well.
"I'll take the three, I guess," he added with a grin.
What Buck accomplished on Thursday night was something that had only been done 15 times by a Blue Jays player since the club's conception in 1977. The only two other Toronto catchers to go deep three times in one game were Darrin Fletcher and Ernie Whitt in 2000 and 1987, respectively.
Coincidentally, the last Major Leaguer to hit three or more home runs in a game was teammate Adam Lind, who belted a trio of long balls against the Red Sox on Sept. 29, 2009 at Fenway Park. The last big league player to hit four homers in one game was Carlos Delgado, who did so for the Jays on Sept. 25, 2003.
"Buck had a night you can only dream of as a kid," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "Three home runs in a ballgame -- that's something."
Buck, who was batting a pedestrian .155 with only one home run this season entering Thursday's tilt, attributed his recent success at the plate to all the hard work and time he has spent in the batting cages over the past week. Buck even headed to the field for an extra round of batting practice prior to the game against the A's.
"I'll do it every day if I get those results," Buck said about the early pregame session. "It started as just something simple that Cito and [hitting coach Dwayne Murphy] saw. We worked together the last couple days in the cages, trying to get started earlier."
Buck kicked off his offensive assault in the second inning with a homer off A's starting pitcher Justin Duchscherer, snapping a Blue Jays streak of 19 straight innings without a run. The solo blast was immediately followed by a home run from outfielder Travis Snider, who sent a first-pitch fastball 391 feet.
The Blue Jays (11-12) continued to get to Duchscherer in the fourth, when first baseman Lyle Overbay walked and Jose Bautista singled to put runners on first and second. Duchscherer, who was limping after his battle with Bautista, was unable to go on and wound up leaving the game with a strained left hip. The right-hander went 3 1/3 frames, surrendering four earned runs on five hits.
With Overbay and Bautista on base, Buck picked up where he left off and homered in his second straight at-bat -- this time against reliever Jerry Blevins -- pushing the Blue Jays to a 5-3 lead. Buck hit his third and final long ball in the sixth, finishing the night with three home runs and five RBIs.
"We just didn't make the pitches we wanted to make," Athletics manager Bob Geren said. "If you don't locate the ball with him, he can do damage. He did that tonight."
Romero, who entered Thursday's game with a minuscule ERA of 1.80, was not as sharp as he had been over his previous four outings. Nevertheless, Romero bounced back from giving up three runs in the first three frames and was particularly proud of his six-inning performance.
"It was a grind out there," Romero said. "I told Buck in the dugout before the game, 'I'm a little worried, I feel too good tonight.' It was one of those nights where I was muscling it up in the first few innings. But, in the last couple innings, I went back to pitching and felt like I did a better job."
Toronto's bullpen, which has been shaky of late, was able to keep the win intact for Romero, as Shawn Camp, Downs, and closer Kevin Gregg (sixth save of the season) were able to string together three scoreless innings to snap the Blue Jays' five-game losing streak.
Despite the countless positives, though, all anyone could talk about was Buck.
James Hall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.