Sports

LONGLEY

Blue Jays put on hitting clinic, destroy Reds

By Rob Longley, Toronto Sun

Toronto - 

If he dared turn on his phone following Monday’s blowout loss at the Rogers Centre, Joey Votto would have had some predictable messages waiting.

The Etobicoke native has a family and friends group that are hard-core Blue Jays fans, many of whom would like to see the big Cincinnati Reds first baseman come home.

If he was ever tempted to explore the option (he’s not), the Jays put on quite a show in the opener of a three-game inter-league series.

The offence was in full destructive mode as an impressive display at the plate led to a 17-2 throttling of the young Reds.

Start with a Troy Tulowitkzi grand slam, add in a three-run shot from Justin Smoak and a two-run blast by Russell Martin and the carnage was plenty.

The hits just kept on coming — 23 in total, just two shy of the club record and the third most in Jays history.

“It’s amazing,” starting and winning Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman said. ‘You’re starting to see how talented and capable we are. We’re just getting hot.

“I’m excited for this stretch now. We’re in a great place.”

Besides the homers, red-hot second baseman Devon Travis and left fielder Ezequiel Carrera each had four hits, the first time two Jays had that many in a game since 2013.

Travis has now hit safely in 14 consecutive contests and is batting a whopping .473 over that stretch, with 15 RBI. It’s the longest hitting streak by a Jays player this season.

“We were waiting on one of those,” said Jays manager John Gibbons, whose team has won six of its past seven and now has a 24-27 record. “Those games are very rare at the big-league level so enjoy ‘em when you get ‘em.”

HIT MEN

How prolific was the Jays offence overall through three hours and six minutes of home-team fun? They scored multiple runs in six of eight innings. Makes one wonder what happened in the first and the sixth when they were blanked.

How bad was it for the Reds? It was the first time they allowed 23 hits in a game in more than three decades (May, 1985.)

Staked to more run support than a starter should ever need, Stroman improved his record to 6-2 and lowered his ERA to 3.28. Now on a five-game winning streak, Stroman allowed five hits over six innings, striking out five.

It was certainly an impressive series start vs. the Reds in what could be a big week for the Jays, ending as it does with a four-game series against the AL East leading New York Yankees.

TULO TALK

In his third game back after a lengthy stretch on the disabled list, Tulowitzki bombed the fourth grand slam of his career and second as a Jay.

While Gibbons figures it will take time for Tulowitzki and fellow DL escapee Josh Donaldson to hit their best form, the former isn’t worried.

“I was just trying to get a good pitch, trying to get a good swing on it and keep it as simple as I possibly can,” Tulowitzki said. “On the grand slam, I got a good pitch to hit and it kind of broke the game open.

“Hopefully we can catch some momentum offensively and take it over to (Tuesday) and keep it going.”

THIRD'S A CHARM

With some generous help from that non household name - Reds starter Lisalverto Bonilla - and a struggling reliever, Robert Stephenson, the Jays blew this non-contest wide open in the third inning.

The highlight was Tulowitzki’s slam off of Stephenson, the fourth of the Jays shortstop’s career. But when the damage was finally done, the Reds had given up five runs in the frame. Remarkably, it was to get worse for shaky Stephenson.

After giving up three more runs in the fourth and fifth, Stephenson exited with 10 hits in two innings of work, allowing seven runs (six earned) in the process.

CATCH SOME BREATH

With a night game Tuesday followed by a day game Wednesday leading into the four-game series vs. the Yankees, the blowout had some benefits.

Gibbons liberally substituted defensively late in the game and didn’t have to overwork his bullpen, which has been busy of late.

“You have a chance for guys to get off their feet a little bit,” Gibbons said. “The bullpen definitely needed a rest.”

The potential casualty, Gibbons suggested playfully, Tuesday’s starter J.A. Happ.

“You feel bad for Happ,” Gibbons joked. “He’s got to pitch tomorrow. You hope you didn’t waste it all.”

GAME ON

The Reds actually opened the scoring, thanks to the man purported to be the fastest in baseball. Leadoff hitter Billy Hamilton got on base with a bunt, stole his league-leading 27th base of the season then came home on an Adam Duvall single … Well worth the price of admission, since his

debut in September 2013, Hamilton has stolen 211 bags, the most in baseball … It may have been Votto’s homecoming, but it was another Toronto-born, 2002 draft pick who had a more memorable night. Jays catcher Martin got the Toronto offence started with a two-run homer in the second inning, bringing home Smoak. Martin later added a single and a double for a three-hit night … Smoak’s team-leading 12th homer of the season came in the fourth and leaves him just two shy of his total for all of last year … In Kevin Pillar’s world, there really is no such thing as a warning track. The Jays centre fielder was at it again on Monday, getting a quick jump and then tracking down a sharply struck ball from the Reds Scott Schebler to lead off the second … Good clean AL East fun? Jays fans cheered with delight at a between-innings video highlight of Red Sox pitcher David Price giving up a two-run homer.