Snider's choice of lumber crucial in Jays' win
Marcum fires seven shutout innings in Toronto's road finale
BOSTON -- Travis Snider asked a favor of Adam Lind. After grounding out against Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield during the third inning on Wednesday afternoon, Snider asked his Blue Jays teammate if he would go find him a heavier bat.
Snider had to try something else to counter Wakefield's signature slow-motion pitch.
Why a heftier strip of lumber?
"Just to see if maybe that would work," Snider said after the Blue Jays escaped Fenway Park with a 3-2 victory. "You're looking at a 65-mph pitch. It's bouncing around. Tim's been playing this game a long time for the reason that he's a good pitcher and he's got a great knuckleball."
It did work.
Over his next two at-bats, Snider used the new bat to collect a double and a home run, providing enough run support to back a strong outing from Shaun Marcum. One of Wakefield's famous offerings in the seventh inning resulted in a two-run shot for Snider, who sent the pitch into Toronto's bullpen beyond the right-field wall to push the Blue Jays ahead, 3-0.
"I still couldn't tell you how I hit the knuckleball," Snider said with a smile. "It just happens. You swing and you hope that you barrel it, and today was one of those days."
It was fortunate for Marcum that Snider found a way to break through against Wakefield.
The Red Sox righty gave the Blue Jays' lineup fits for the most part. Wakefield scattered five hits over his seven innings and worked with only one baserunner among the first 13 hitters he faced. Toronto did not solve Wakefield until the fifth, when Lyle Overbay doubled to center and scored on a double from Snider.
In the seventh inning, Wakefield issued a one-out walk to Jose Bautista and then watched Snider crush a 1-2 knuckler for the right fielder's fifth shot of the season. That homer proved essential, considering Blue Jays closer Kevin Gregg relinquished a pair of ninth-inning runs before notching his American League-leading 10th save of the year.
In the end, Gregg's wild ninth -- one aided by an argued third strike call to David Ortiz with a runner on second base -- was rendered moot in light of the win, which gave the Blue Jays (20-16) a 7-3 record over the course of their three-city tour through Cleveland, Chicago and Boston. The victory over the Red Sox also avoided a three-game sweep in the Fens.
"We hung on," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, whose club improved to 13-6 away from home this season. "It turned out to be a good road trip, but we needed to win that one today to make it a good road trip. Otherwise, it's just a so-so road trip."
Snider's 2-for-4 showing against the Red Sox capped off a strong performance throughout Toronto's 10-game trip. Over that span, Snider hit .382 with five doubles, one homer and six runs scored, reaching base in nine of the 10 contests. The strong stretch comes after Snider opened the year with a .149 average over his first 22 games.
"This whole road trip he swung the bat well," Marcum said. "It's just like with anybody, it's only a matter of time before they break out of their slump. That's part of baseball -- everybody goes through it. It's nice to see Travis out providing that thump that we need at the bottom of the order."
The Blue Jays are also seeing signs that Marcum (2-1, 2.78 ERA) is evolving into the type of leader they believe he can be for the rotation. While the sample size is small, Marcum has now gone 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA in three starts following a Toronto loss. That is the type of performance Roy Halladay turned in for years as the club's ace.
"That's what No. 1s do," Gaston said. "That's what you ask them to do, just give you a chance to win. I can't say enough about how he's pitched this year. I'd just like to see us get him a few more runs once in a while."
Against the Red Sox (18-17), Marcum used a strong curveball and cutter -- helping to overcome an inconsistent changeup -- to turn in seven shutout innings. Dating back to the start of the 2007 season, Marcum has now opened a start with at least six shutout innings 18 times. On Wednesday, he yielded just two hits and struck out six.
With Marcum out of the game, the Red Sox attempted a late rally in the ninth. Kevin Youkilis singled off Gregg and then scored on a one-out double from J.D. Drew that carried over the head of Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells. Gregg then struck out Ortiz on a pitch that appeared to be well outside.
"I don't have to," Ortiz said when asked if he saw a replay of the pitch. "Thank God I wasn't hitting right-handed, because that would have hit me in the ribs."
Ortiz argued with home-pate umpire Dale Scott, who later ejected Red Sox manager Terry Francona after he came out to complain following another close call with Adrian Beltre at the plate. Beltre then singled off Gregg to cut the Blue Jays' lead to 3-2, but Toronto's closer recovered and escaped the inning.
Snider's blast proved to be the difference.
"Big day," Gaston said. "Big day for Travis. He had a good day out there. I was very pleased with what I saw from him today. He battled his butt off up there and had a good day. That's good for him."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.