TORONTO – John Buck took some extra batting practice before Thursday’s game aginst the Oakland Athletics. It seemed to do the trick.
Buck became the first catcher in six years to hit three home runs in a game and Travis Snider added a solo shot as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Oakland Athletics 6-3.
Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero (2-1) allowed three runs in six innings to earn the win and Kevin Gregg picked up his sixth save as Toronto ended a five-game losing streak before a crowd of 10,721 at Rogers Centre.
Buck’s outburst came after he took early batting practice with hitting coach Dwayne Murphy watching and pitching coach Bruce Walton throwing.
“I’ve been getting pitches to hit,” said Buck, who also had five RBIs. “I’ve been fouling them straight back, then swinging at the nasty pitches and missing the ones I should be hitting. I was just concentrating on getting my foot down early and getting my hands ready.”
Buck joined a list of 14 other Blue Jays to hit three home runs in a game. Only two other Blue Jay catchers with three-homer games are Darrin Fletcher in 2000 and Ernie Whitt in 1987. The last Blue Jay to have a three-homer game was Adam Lind last season.
“It’s pretty cool when you get to see something like that,” Romero said. “Three homers in one game, it’s not something you see every day. He deserves it, he’s been working hard.”
Oakland starter Justin Duchscherer (2-1) allowed four runs in 3 1-3 innings before leaving the game with a left hip injury in the fourth.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, a former hitting coach, gave some of the credit for Buck’s success to Murphy.
“That’s what you dream of as a hitting coach – you work with a guy and he has a big night then you’ve got him,” Gaston said. “I’m pretty sure from now on that anything Murph has to say is going to be OK. I just kind of echoed what he was saying and Buck had a night you would dream of as a kid, three home runs.”
The Athletics had a 3-0 lead on Kevin Kouzmanoff’s RBI single in the first and Jake Fox’s two-run double in the third.
Buck led off the bottom of the third with a homer and on the next pitch Snider belted his third of the season. For the Blue Jays, the homers ended a 19-inning scoreless drought.
Buck hit a three-run homer in the fourth against Jerry Blevins after Duchscherer left with his injury and hit another homer in the sixth against Craig Breslow off the centre-field restaurant.
“That ball Travis hit, that was a missile,” Gaston said. “That got out of here in a hurry and then Buck came back and hit the top of the restaurant.”
Buck had a chance to equal Carlos Delgado’s club-record of four homers in a game, but flew out to right field in the eighth. Delgado also had four three-homer games as a Blue Jay.
“(Buck’s) always been a guy that has power,” said Oakland manager Bob Geren. “If you don’t locate the ball, he can do damage and he did tonight.”
Despite his offensive outburst, Buck took time to admire Romero’s effort on a night the left-hander didn’t have his best stuff.
“I think that’s a really good thing on Ricky’s part because normally he’s able to go out there and just throw. He’s nasty, his ball moves all over the place,” Buck said. “His changeup didn’t have that bite. He gave up a couple of early hits on that.
“I said, ‘You’ve just got to pitch, locate, set hitters up.’ He made the adjustment right away and did a real good job.”
Notes: Brandon Morrow (1-2, 6.14 earned-run average) will start for the Blue Jays on Friday against Oakland’s Trevor Cahill (0-0, 0.00). … Right-hander Merkin Valdez cleared waivers and has been assigned outright to the Blue Jays’ triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas. … Vancouver-born Trystan Magnuson picked up his first save of the season Wednesday for the Blue Jays’ double-A affiliate in New Hampshire. … The Blue Jays entered Thursday’s game with the lowest average attendance in the majors at 15,878.