Blue Jays 5, Reds 0

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CINCINNATI (AP)—The three-hour rain delay didn’t bother Kelvim Escobar. Neither did the diminutive mound or the Reds’ hitters, who could barely touch him.

With Pete Rose watching from a seat behind the plate, Escobar just threw it down the middle and let the hitters get themselves out.

Escobar, who can’t hold onto a role, pitched a four-hitter for his third career shutout Sunday, and drove in a run with his first single for a 5-0 victory over Cincinnati.

“That dude was awesome,” said outfielder Adam Dunn, who was 0-for-3 with a walk. “Honestly, I had never heard of him until I found out he was pitching a couple of days ago. His fastball explodes on you. It sinks, and he’s got one of the better (split-finger fastballs) in the league. He had all three of his pitches working.”

Rose made a brief and unannounced appearance, watching the first couple of innings. But the day belonged to Escobar (3-3), who lost his job as closer a month ago.

He pitched one of the best games of his career, limiting the Reds to a pair of singles, two doubles and a walk. They never got a runner to third as they were shut out for the first time.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I just threw the best game of my life. I threw some pitches that were down the middle. Sometimes you pay for those. It was just my day.”

Escobar hadn’t pitched a shutout since Aug. 25, 2001, a 9-0 win at Baltimore that was his last complete game, as well. Throwing from a mound that others have described as too flat, Escobar made sure to bend his knees and keep the ball down.

“It is kind of flat, but I remembered I threw a complete game like that at St. Petersburg in A-ball and they had a mound just like that. All pitchers like high mounds.”

He also had an RBI single during Toronto’s four-run second inning off Jimmy Haynes (0-5), who was expected to be the Reds’ top starter but is struggling through a miserable season.

“One inning,” Haynes said, referring to a four-run second. “They got a few hits here and there in that inning. The big one was to their pitcher. That kind of hurt. They scored a few runs there, and their guy pitched a great game.”

The Blue Jays took two-of-three in their first regular-season series against the Reds, a regular opponent during spring training in Florida.

Rose attended his first game at Great American Ball Park, which was delayed 3 hours, 5 minutes by rain. Under the terms of his lifetime ban for gambling, the hits king can’t get any special privileges.

He got into the ballpark with a $225 ticket for a seat behind the plate, and stayed in a private club during the rain delay, signing autographs.

Rose didn’t talk to reporters and wasn’t shown on the videoboard during his brief time in the stands, leaving most fans unaware he was there.

Haynes got hit hard again in his 5 2-3 innings. The right-hander has been sidetracked by a sore back, and his 8.91 ERA is the worst on the pitching staff.

In the last 22 games, Reds starters are 1-11 with a 7.35 ERA.

Greg Myers walked to open the second, Chris Woodward singled and Escobar hit a soft single to right with two outs for his first career RBI. Reed Johnson beat out a grounder for an infield single that scored Woodward, and Frank Catalanotto doubled for two more runs.

Vernon Wells tripled in the seventh and scored on Carlos Delgado’s grounder for a 5-0 lead. Delgado was 5-for-13 in the interleague series with two homers and eight RBIs.

Escobar overwhelmed the Reds with a 98 mph fastball and exquisite control— 28 of his first 35 pitches were strikes. He fanned Ken Griffey Jr. in his first two at-bats, and Griffey had words with a few fans sitting in the first row by the end of the dugout.

Bench coach Ray Knight came over and talked to the fans, who were escortedaway after an usher checked their tickets.

Notes

Escobar has six career complete games in 80 starts. … Blue Jays pitchers had a hit in each game of the series. Roy Halladay singled for his first career hit on Friday, and Jeff Tam doubled for his first hit on Saturday. … SS Felipe Lopez was out of the Reds lineup for the fourth straight game. He’s in an 0-for-21 slump, the worst of his career. … Toronto was the last AL team to pitch a shutout. … After learning he wasn’t in the starting lineup, Reds OF Jose Guillen threw three bats against the clubhouse wall, making holes and an indentation. The Reds said he’ll be billed for the damage, but not fined. Guillen asked for a trade after Griffey returned from a dislocated shoulder last month, leaving him a backup. He claimed he had originally been told he’d be in the lineup Sunday. “They told me I wasn’t going to play,” Guillen said. “I was not happy. I had three bats in my hand, so I just threwthem.”

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