CHICAGO, IL – The Toronto Blue Jays rode the wave of Reed Johnson’s three-run home run in the second inning while Gustavo Chacin gave the National League a taste of dominance to the Cubs, shutting them out over seven innings, allowing only five hits in a 4-1 Blue Jays victory.
The Toronto Blue Jays were thankful to get out of Oakland after losing three of four to the Athletics and five of their last seven games, but someone forgot to tell this team that they’d now be facing the red-hot Derrek Lee and the Chicago Cubs in a three-game interleague series.
The opening game of this series would showcase a pair of rookie left-handers, Gustavo Chacin for Toronto and John Koronka for Chicago. Koronka would be making his second career start after being called up to replace the injured Mark Prior, and didn’t exactly get off to the start he would have liked.
The Cubs lefty would actually strike out both Reed Johnson and Alex Rios to begin the game but Vernon Wells continued to swing a hot bat by doubling down the line in left, followed by a Shea Hillenbrand walk. Toronto third baseman Aaron Hill would drive a single to center scoring Wells for a 1-0 lead, before Koronka got Frank Menechino to ground into a fielder’s choice at second ending the inning.
Chicago would try to place catch-up in their half of the first, putting men on the corners with two outs but Chacin would get out of the jam by inducing his own fielder’s choice off the bat of Jason Dubois.
Catcher Gregg Zaun would lead off the second with a single, but was erased at second on a fielder’s choice by John McDonald. Up came Gustavo Chacin to the plate in his first major league at-bat, laying down a bunt, but Koronka wouldn’t get the lead runner at second while Chacin hustled down the line, safe at first. McDonald would proceed to steal third base before Reed Johnson brought both men home with a deep home run to left-center, making it 4-0 Jays.
Perhaps a little winded from running the bases, Chacin got into another jam with runners on second and third with one out and his counterpart Koronka coming to the plate. Gustavo would uncharacteristically walk the pitcher loading the bases, but got Jerry Hairston Jr. to ground into a double-play ending the inning.
Chacin would shutout the Cubs over seven innings, allowing only five hits while striking out a career high six batters.
Koronka would hold the Jays off the scoreboard from the third inning on in his six innings of work, totaling four runs on six hits. A bullpen trio of Todd Wellemeyer, Joe Borowski and Mike Remlinger would toss a combined three innings of scoreless ball in relief of their starter, giving up only one hit.
Toronto reliever Vinnie Chulk would come on in the eighth replacing Chacin, tossing a scoreless frame, and came out to try and close things out in the ninth but was rocked by an Aramis Ramirez solo home run, putting the Cubs on the board trailing by three. Closer Miguel Batista would have to come in after the home run but quickly gave up a double to Dubois, followed by a Jeremy Burnitz strikeout and a single to Michael Barrett bringing the tying run to the plate in Jose Macias. Macias would chop a grounder over the head of the pitcher but McDonald would range up the middle, touch second and flip onto first for a game ending double-play.
The Blue Jays will look to make it two in a row when they send struggling right-hander Josh Towers (5-4) to the mound against Cubs lefty Glendon Rusch (5-1).
The game on Tuesday can be seen on Rogers Sportsnet starting at 8pm EST with radio coverage on The FAN 590AM beginning at 7:30pm EST.
InsideTheDome’s Game Notes: This is the Jays first visit to Wrigley Field in Chicago but did play the Cubs during interleague play in Toronto during the 2003 season, taking two of three…Toronto rookie Aaron Hill now has 15 RBI in his first 17 games this season…Gustavo Chacin with his seven shutout innings against the Cubs, lowered his ERA on the season to 3.04.