06/25/09 1:05 AM ET
Jays jump out early, roll past Reds
Hill, Wells and Lind homer during five-run first inning
By Erika Gilbert / MLB.com
It was the third ball the Jays sent over the wall in left field at Rogers Centre -- and Arroyo had yet to retire a batter.
The Toronto bats went to work early against Arroyo, powering the club to an 8-2 victory over the Reds on Wednesday at Rogers Centre.
Right-hander Scott Richmond kept the Reds at bay while the offense put on a show reminiscent of Arroyo's last visit to Rogers Centre, which came on the same date last season.
"I remember guys just going up there and not missing their pitch," center fielder Vernon Wells said of the team's last meeting with Arroyo. "Tonight -- kind of had flashbacks of that night."
Last June 24, the Jays chased Arroyo after only one-plus inning, tagging him for 10 earned runs before he was pulled after facing five batters in the second inning without recording an out. While he lasted 3 2/3 innings on Wednesday, the Blue Jays (40-33) still managed to put the game out of reach early.
The Jays took Arroyo deep three times last year, as well, spreading the homers over the first two innings. On Wednesday, the Jays hit a pair of two-run homers and a solo shot in the opening frame, taking a 5-0 lead after sending five batters to the plate.
"He pitches well away from here," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said of Arroyo (8-6). "He's a guy that I know a lot of teams would love to have, but he's just had some bad luck in this place."
Blue Jays shortstop Marco Scutaro was the first batter Arroyo faced, and he forced the right-hander to throw 10 pitches before trotting to first with a walk. Arroyo needed only two pitches against the next two batters, but Aaron Hill and Wells sent both pitches into the left-field stands.
Hill's blast came on a slider left up in the zone, and Wells' shot was on a fastball in a similar location.
"He just left some balls up. It happens," Hill said.
Arroyo managed to keep the ball in the park with Scott Rolen at the plate, but he was unable to keep Rolen off the bases. Rolen singled to center field before Lind smacked a 3-1 fastball into the Toronto bullpen.
Arroyo got the next three hitters to ground out, but by that point, the damage had been done. It was the Jays' first three-homer inning since May 20, 2007, in Philadelphia.
While the Toronto offense pounded away, Richmond (6-4) went to work against Cincinnati's batters. He followed up an eight-inning, one-run performance in his previous start with another effective outing. In seven innings, Richmond gave up a pair of runs on only two hits -- his lowest total as a starter -- and two walks while recording three strikeouts.
"Having the run support -- especially for our young staff -- it gives us a lot of confidence to just go out there and pound the strike zone early," Richmond said, citing his ability to locate his fastball as the key to his success against the Reds (34-36). "My breaking stuff wasn't exactly sharp, but I was able to get by with it by just focusing on pounding the strike zone."
Richmond looked as though he could be headed for trouble and an early exit in the third inning. He walked Chris Dickerson and gave up an RBI single to Jerry Hairston Jr., throwing two wild pitches in the process. A string of balls fouled off by Reds hitters drove Richmond's pitch count for the frame to 37, but the righty settled down to pitch four more innings.
"Third inning, his tempo got off and he was really deliberate and slow," Gaston said. "We reminded him to speed it up a little bit [and] told [catcher Rod] Barajas to speed it up a little bit. He got sped up and pitched great."
After fanning Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips to end the third, Richmond did not allow a single baserunner through the rest of his seven innings, leaving it to right-hander Dirk Hayhurst to preserve the lead for two more frames.
While the outcome did not seem to be in doubt after Richmond's exit, Rolen ensured the Jays' six-run margin remained intact with an outstanding defensive play in the eighth.
With one out and runners on first and second, a scorching line drive off Hairston's bat seemed sure to drop into left field to plate at least one run. Rolen, though, leapt, stretched his left arm and snagged the ball with his glove, sending the Rogers Centre crowd to its feet for a lengthy ovation.
"That ball was completely by him when he caught that ball," Gaston said. "I don't know if I've ever seen that before. That ball was by him. He caught it. It was unbelievable.
"It just shows you why he has seven Gold Gloves. He's a pretty amazing player out there. I'm just amazed every time he does something that you might not have ever seen before."
With Richmond's pitching and Rolen's defense, Toronto's eight runs were more than enough.
"The guys are swinging the bats good right now," Hill said. "It's tough to come in and shut a team out when they're swinging the bats."
Erika Gilbert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.