Hill's late homer lifts Jays over Giants

Hill's late homer lifts Jays over Giants

TORONTO -- Jesse Litsch walked across the Blue Jays' clubhouse and stopped at the locker belonging to second baseman Aaron Hill. The pitcher bumped fists with Hill before heading down a hallway and disappearing into a back room.

  • 134 wins
  • 118 wins

It was the combined effort from both Litsch and Hill that helped the Blue Jays claim a 3-0 Interleague victory over the Giants on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre. Litsch kept San Francisco's lineup at bay and Hill put an end to a tightly contested pitchers' duel with a game-changing home run.

With two outs in the eighth inning, Hill connected with a 1-1 fastball from Giants right-hander Matt Cain, pulling the pitch over the wall in left field for a two-run homer that broke open a scoreless tie. Toronto added another insurance run and closer Kevin Gregg picked up his 18th save of the year, but Litsch's performance paved the way.

"Jesse just did a great job," Hill said. "We wouldn't have been there if it weren't for what he did."

That reality was a great development for the Blue Jays (38-31), considering Litsch's showing on Sunday in Colorado. In that outing -- the right-hander's first off the disabled list after a year-long recovery from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow -- Litsch surrendered seven runs on nine hits and exited after just 2 1/3 innings.

Following that display, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston admitted to having some concern about Litsch's status. The pitcher answered any lingering questions by keeping the Giants (37-30) off the board for seven innings, during which he scattered three hits, walked none and recorded three strikeouts.

"He certainly didn't hurt himself, that's for sure," Gaston said. "It makes us a better team if Litsch can pitch well, along with the other guys that we have."

When the Jays activated Litsch and added him to the rotation, Gaston hoped the club would see the same type of pitcher who won 13 games in 2008. At the end of that season, Litsch relied less on his cut fastball and instead focused on mixing his sinker and breaking pitches in more often with a four-seam fastball.

Litsch got away from that approach on Sunday, but tackled the issue prior to his outing against the Giants.

"I was mixing my pitches better," said Litsch, who walked away with a no-decision. "Last time, I got cutter-happy and they were sitting on it. ... We worked on sinking the ball more and just working on the whole repertoire instead of just a couple pitches. From there, we just rolled with it."

The closest the Giants came to scoring off Litsch came in the second inning, when Pablo Sandoval reached with a one-out double. Litsch quickly settled in and retired the next two batters to escape the threat. Beyond that, San Francisco managed only a pair of singles off the righty.

Litsch's improved performance proved integral in light of the way Cain (6-5) was dealing against Toronto's lineup. Through the first seven innings, the Blue Jays managed just three hits off the right-hander, who only allowed one runner to reach as far as second base over that span.

"He's been locating all year," Hill said. "We knew he was a fastball pitcher. He's dominant with the fastball. You saw a lot of popups today. [He was] just getting guys off the end or jammed or whatnot."

That was until the eighth inning, when Cain issued a two-out walk to Fred Lewis, bringing Hill to the plate. Hill's 10th homer of the season put the Blue Jays ahead, 2-0, and effectively sent Cain to a loss. Alex Gonzalez later contributed an RBI single off Giants reliever Santiago Casilla to put the Jays up, 3-0.

"I didn't want to get beat again by it," said Hill, referring to the fastball from Cain that resulted in the home run. "It was just nice to get the barrel out and to get a chance there."

Hill also said that it was nice to play behind a strong showing from Litsch.

"He's got good pace, good confidence, good rhythm up there," Hill said. "He's got great command and throws strikes. You're going to have times where guys get cheap hits and whatnot, but he goes out there and he keeps doing what he's doing and he's very confident. I think he'll continue to have success."

Litsch was thrilled to bounce back from his last outing.

"It was very satisfying," Litsch said. "To come back after the last start and do that was definitely a plus in my book. I had a little more edge on my shoulders this time because I don't like losing. ... I wanted to come out and pick myself up and the whole team really."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.