Maybe having a former hitting coach back running the team can finally get the Toronto Blue Jays offense going.
Coming off his first win since returning as Blue Jays manager, Cito Gaston hopes his lineup can build off a breakout performance as it faces the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday to open an interleague series matching last-place teams.
When manager John Gibbons was fired on Friday, Toronto (36-41) turned some heads by bringing back Gaston to run the underachieving team, which is last in the AL East.
Gaston was the Blue Jays’ hitting coach from 1982-89 before being named manager, guiding them to two World Series titles before his tenure ended in 1997. He also served as Toronto’s hitting coach from 2000-01.
After being held to three runs through two games with Gaston back in the dugout, the Blue Jays offense came alive Sunday in an 8-5 win over Pittsburgh to snap a seven-game losing streak.
“It was a big win for us,” Gaston said. “I thought overall everybody did a great job today.”
It was the most runs the Blue Jays have scored in 15 games, and their 11 hits and eight walks were their highest totals in 17 games. Their 308 runs are the second-fewest in the AL.
“One run’s been big for us lately, so (when you get that), you want to celebrate like a soccer team does,” said Scott Rolen, who hit a two-run homer.
That was Rolen’s fourth hit and first RBIs in eight games, as he is among many Toronto players hopeful they’re breaking out of slumps.
Lyle Overbay is 6-for-17 with a homer and four RBIs over the last four games following a 4-for-34 stretch (.147). Alex Rios has three multihit efforts in his last four games after a 1-for-12 skid. Cleanup hitter Vernon Wells drove in two runs with sacrifice flies Sunday, but he’s homerless in 10 straight games with three RBIs.
“The good thing about coming out of it is that we had good at-bats,” Overbay said. “We’re getting those quality at-bats, giving ourselves opportunities.”
Cincinnati (35-42) also has struggled offensively, hitting .207 and scoring 32 runs over the last 12 games. The Reds are 4-8 in that span and at the bottom of the NL Central.
Adam Dunn, among the NL leaders with 18 home runs, has no RBIs in seven consecutive games while going 2-for-22 (.091). Rookie phenom Jay Bruce has failed to drive in a run in eight straight while hitting .125 (4-for-32).
Reds rookie first baseman Joey Votto, however, is on a tear heading back to his native Toronto with 14 hits in his last 28 at-bats.
“I think one day in the near future, he’s going to be a big run producer. He’s a tough out,” Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said.
Burnett (6-7, 5.42 ERA) has failed to last more than five innings in three consecutive starts, posting an 11.30 ERA while allowing 22 hits and 12 walks. He gave up eight runs for the second time in three starts on Thursday in an 8-7 loss at Milwaukee.
The right-hander has an 8.16 ERA and .336 opponent batting average in seven appearances at home. He’s 1-3 with a 6.89 ERA in six career starts against the Reds, but has not faced them since 2005 while with Florida.
Arroyo (4-6, 5.55) is 0-2 with a 6.33 ERA in four starts this month, allowing six homers in 21 1-3 innings. The right-hander has given up 16 runs and 33 hits in his last 20 1-3 innings on the road.
Arroyo made all nine of his starts versus the Blue Jays while pitching for Boston in 2004 and 2005, and is 0-3 with a 5.87 ERA in his last four outings against them.