CINCINNATI - It isn’t in his nature, but for a few moments Friday evening, Jo-Jo Reyes would have been justified had he wondered ‘Not again?’
Locked in a superb scoreless pitching duel into the sixth inning with Cincinnati’s Mike Leake, Reyes had just watched a very catchable fly ball drop in between outfielders Corey Patterson and Jose Bautista for an inside-the-park home run.
For a guy who just recently snapped a 28-game winless streak as a starting pitcher, this could have sent him to a very dark place. His teammates wasted no time in proving the streak is dead and buried.
Patterson and Bautista were right in the middle of a rapid-fire three-run uprising in the next half inning, a rally that was punctuated by Adam Lind’s 15th home run on the way to a 3-2 Blue Jays’ victory.
For Reyes, it was his third win in his last four starts but he had plenty of help, first from Octavio Dotel, who pitched out of a seventh-inning jam and got the first two outs of the eighth, then Marc Rzepczynski, who cleaned up the eighth inning.
Frank Francisco worked the ninth, gave up a single, but got the save.
“Jo-Jo set the tone,” said manager John Farrell. “He made a lot of key pitches early on. He had an overall mix of good stuff and his strike-throwing ability was very good.
“He’s been through enough adversity as we all know. A ball that drops in is not going to derail him from all the things he’s already endured.”
Reyes, as always, dismisses those moments of bad luck as irrelevant to what he’s trying to do.
“If I let that bother me, then I’m trying to do it all myself and I’m out of my rhythm,” he said. “I’ve been taught that you can’t let those things get to you. I have a great group of guys here who have welcomed me. I feel wanted here.”
Lind has now hit a home run in four consecutive games. Since April 25 when he had a chat with hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, he is hitting .435 (40-for-92) with 14 homers and 32 RBI with an OPS approaching 1.400.
“Texas,” said Lind, when asked to pinpoint his turnaround.
“I had a sit-down with Murph. Bautista was out and we didn’t know how long he was going to be out. He told me I had to start driving the ball.
“I quit trying to feel my way along. I hadn’t been swinging with a lot of authority. I was hitting singles over the shortstop’s head. I started looking to pull the ball and it has worked.”
The two teams played the first five innings as if they were double-parked. The Reds had two base-
runners, the Jays just one — Bautista’s single — and he was wiped out on a caught-stealing to end the fourth. Those five innings took exactly 65 minutes to play.
“I think we got one ball out of the infield through the first five,” said Farrell.
Meanwhile, Reyes was dealing just as well as Leake. Aside from Brandon Phillips’ first-inning double off the wall in right-centre and Jonny Gomes’ second-inning single, he was perfect. After the Gomes single, he set down 12 Reds in order.
Then came the game’s first break. With one out in the sixth, Drew Stubbs hit a ball to deep right-centre. Both Patterson and Bautista were in pursuit, with Patterson seemingly in position to make the play when he heard Bautista calling him off. Instead of clearing out of the way, Patterson backed right into the spot where the ball was coming down, forcing Bautista wide. The ball dropped between them.
“It was a miscommunication,” said Farrell. Typically you’d like to see the centre fielder take charge in that situation. Jose went far into the gap. The play was compound by not getting a clean relay.”
Meanwhile, Stubbs a fleet leadoff man, had been jogging until he got midway between first and second, expecting the ball to be caught. He turned on the jets and scored without a throw.
Both Patterson and Bautista atoned in the next half-inning. Patterson was hit by a pitch leading off the seventh. He stole second and then Bautista belted a double to centre to bring him home.
“Whether that’s redemption or seeing the guy for the third time, it’s a pretty heady left-right combination right there.”
Lind followed with a towering shot that started out looking like a routine fly ball and finished as a 420-foot, two-run home run.
“When I hit it, I thought it might have a chance,” said Lind, “but when you hit them to centre, you never really know.”
Former Jay Scott Rolen got the Reds to within a run with his third homer.