04/07/09 12:03 AM ET
Jays' young hitters lift Doc, sink Tigers
Lind rips three-run shot, drives in six; Snider adds homer
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
On Monday night, the two young hitters helped pace an outpouring of offense for Toronto, backing a solid performance from ace Roy Halladay in a 12-5 Opening Day romp over Detroit at Rogers Centre. In a perfect world, Lind and Snider would combine with their veteran teammates to help transform the Jays' offense into a formidable unit.
That was precisely the case against the Tigers, who watched the youngsters lead a 15-hit attack that included contributions up and down the lineup. Given the state of the Blue Jays' rotation -- a relatively young and inexperienced group behind Halladay -- such showings in the batter's box will be crucial to the club's 2009 season.
"My guys, they know that," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "I've talked to them about us scoring more runs this year, because right now, we don't think we have the staff we had last year. Who knows what's going to happen with those kids? They might go out and pitch lights-out. That'd be a plus, wouldn't it?
"But, right now, they're worried that, 'Hey, we need to put up some runs every night.'"
If Lind and Snider come even remotely close to consistently matching their performances in their first Opening Day experience, the Blue Jays (1-0) would be ecstatic. Lind set an Opening Day franchise record with six RBIs and tied the all-time mark for hits in a season opener with four. Snider ended with two extra-base hits, including an opposite-field solo home run in the fourth.
The 21-year-old Snider -- Toronto's prized prospect, selected in the first round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft -- opens the season as the starting left fielder and provides a powerful bat in the ninth spot of the order. Lind, who thrived under Gaston's tutelage a year ago, has been asked to serve as the primary designated hitter at the age of 25.
Appearing in the fifth spot of the lineup, Lind looked at ease against hard-throwing Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander, tagging the pitcher for a two-run single to get things rolling in a four-run first inning for the Jays. In the fourth inning, Lind capped off a five-run outburst by drilling an offering from reliever Eddie Bonine to straightaway center field for a three-run homer.
Lind added a run-scoring single in a three-run eighth, and he and Snider were enjoying every second of the high-scoring evening.
"We were having a good time in the dugout every time one of us came in after a big hit, giving each other some love," Snider said with a smile. "That's how me and Lindy are. It's a really good working relationship and we've got a good friendship we've built off the field.
"It should be exciting, two young guys who get to play and come up together."
As much fun as Lind and Snider were having on the field, Gaston was enjoying his view from the bench.
"They had a great night," Gaston said. "It looked like they were trying to out-do each other. Those kids, it doesn't surprise me at all what they did tonight. I just hope it's something they can keep up the rest of the year. It's certainly not going to be on that pace, but anything close would be good."
Gaston wasn't surprised, and neither was Halladay.
Last season, Halladay witnessed Lind's progress under Gaston's watch and Snider's rapid ascent from Class A to the Major Leagues. This spring, Toronto also saw Lind and Snider hit .309 and .381, respectively. They're performances give the Blue Jays a little more confidence in the offense's ability to score runs at a higher rate this year.
"We saw a little bit of it last year," Halladay said. "I think they're getting comfortable and they're going to be big parts of our lineup. It's nice to see them get off to that good start. I think they're both great players, so it's going to be nice to have them all year and let them go out there and see what they do."
The early cushion against Detroit (0-1) -- aided by a two-run double in the first inning by Toronto's Lyle Overbay -- allowed Halladay to cruise through the opening six frames. During that span, the horse of the Jays' staff allowed just two hits (one being a solo homer to Curtis Granderson in the fourth) among the first 20 batters he faced.
"Doc did his usual carving people up like he always does," Lind said.
In the seventh, though, Halladay misplaced a few pitches, leading to four Detroit runs, briefly cutting Toronto's lead down to 9-5. Two of those runs came courtesy of a home run off the bat of Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge, but the damage was minimal in light of the lump of run support Halladay received early in the contest.
Every Jays starter contributed at least one hit and six recorded at least one RBI, helping to chase Verlander from the contest before the end of the fourth. The 12 runs and 15 hits produced by Toronto's lineup each fell one shy of tying the Opening Day club records in both categories.
That showing helped Halladay, making his seventh consecutive Opening Day start, to his third win in an opener, tying a team record also held by Jimmy Key.
"Obviously, that's a lot of runs," Halladay said. "I probably won't have that all year, but it's a great start and a great sign."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.