"This is a good tight-knitted bunch that pulls for each other. They have fun, but are very intense," Gibbons said after Tuesday night's 6-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays gave the club a 2-0 start for the first time since 2002. The Blue Jays started 0-3 on their way to a last-place finish a year ago. "Ride the wave," Gibbons said, smiling. "I don't know how big the wave is."
Shea Hillenbrand's bases-loaded single snapped a sixth-inning tie and helped promising young left-hander Gustavo Chacin get his second major league victory.
Chacin allowed two singles and Alex Gonzalez's solo homer in five innings. The 24-year-old Venezuelan struck out three and walked one before being removed after Toronto scored five times to pull away from a 1-1 tie in the sixth.
"This year, I feel a little bit more comfortable and relaxed," said Chacin, who got his first win at Yankee Stadium last September. "I've got to keep doing the same thing, working hard and preparing for my next start."
Miguel Batista worked the ninth, finishing a seven-hitter for his second save in as many chances.
The biggest blow in the Toronto sixth was Hillenbrand's two-run single off loser Seth McClung, pitching for the first time since elbow surgery in 2003. All five runs were charged to McClung, ruining a solid effort by starter Scott Kazmir.
Kazmir, the second youngest player in the majors at 21 years, two months, allowed one run and three hits - one of them Reed Johnson's triple that left fielder Eduardo Perez lost in the lights - in five innings.
"He pitched well," Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "You can't be disappointed. He should have had five shutout innings, really."
The start was the eighth of his Kazmir's career. The left-hander was acquired last July in a trade that sent Victor Zambrano to the New York Mets and went 2-3 with a 5.67 ERA the rest of the season.
Kazmir's worst outing in the majors by far was a two-inning stint against Toronto, in which he allowed seven runs, six hits and three walks in a road loss on Sept. 19. He was much sharper this time, giving up three hits, walking two and striking out two.
He came out after 89 pitches. Toronto then loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth on a walk and singles by Orlando Hudson and Vernon Wells. Hillenbrand's two-run single put Toronto ahead for good, and Alex Rios followed with a sacrifice fly for a 4-1 lead.
Gregg Zaun singled to drive in the fourth run of the inning, chasing McClung. John McDonald added a RBI single off Casey Fossum to make it 6-1.
"I wish I could have had a couple of at-bats back," said Kazmir, who gave up the triple to Johnson in the first inning before watching him score on Frank Menechino's grounder to second base.
Like Kazmir, Chacin also made his major league debut last season, winning at Yankee Stadium in his first start on Sept. 20 and finishing 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA. The left-hander led the AL with four wins during spring training, and limited the Devil Rays to a pair of singles before Gonzalez hit Tampa Bay's first homer of the season.
"That looked like what we saw last year," Gibbons said, adding that pitching coach Brad Arnsberg made a few adjustments with the left-hander after his last exhibition start.
"He was flying open and falling off the mound," the manager said. "I don't remember one pitch he did that tonight."
Jorge Cantu led off Tampa Bay's seventh against Brandon League with his first major league homer. Carl Crawford added a RBI single to trim the Devil Rays' deficit to 6-3.
Notes: The Devil Rays are 0-2 for the first time in franchise history. They have been 1-1 six times and 2-0 once. . . . Chacin's 18 regular-season wins for double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Syracuse were the most in the minor leagues last year. . . . Attendance for the middle game of the three-game series was announced as 9,144. Monday's 26,018 was the smallest opening-day crowd in Devil Rays history.