With the bats fully loaded and A.J. Burnett firing bullets, the Toronto Blue Jays made it the happiest of homecomings for manager Cito Gaston.
Alex Rios and Marco Scutaro keyed a 22-hit attack with four hits apiece as the Blue Jays pummelled the Cincinnati Reds 14-1 in interleague action on Tuesday.
It marked a triumphant return to the Rogers Centre for Gaston, who skippered Toronto to back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993 — when the ballpark was known as SkyDome.
"It gives you goose bumps," Gaston said. "It was a special night for me and it is just great to be back."
Toronto is 2-2 since John Gibbons was fired last Friday and replaced with Gaston, who received a warm ovation from the 28,153 fans on hand.
"There is definitely a better feeling," Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "They love Cito here.
"He has proven it with what he has done. Hopefully, that buzz will get us over the top."
"He has a different presence," Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay said. "I know when I was young, coming in, I looked up to him [because] he has kind of got that presence which I think is nice.
"When you're losing, something has got to happen. We couldn't continue to play like we were.
"Sometimes a new manager brings different things and kind of helps you get over that hump. I think he is going to do a great job for us."
"One thing I like about Cito is he is an offensive-minded guy," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "He has always done a good job with hitters.
"Our biggest problem is we don't hit with runners in scoring position. We know the problem, it is just a matter of can we correct it."
So far, so good.
Rios went 4-for-6 at the plate with a home run, a run batted in and three runs scored for the Blue Jays (37-41).
Scott Rolen homered and drove in four runs, Gregg Zaun homered with three RBIs, and Fredericton's Matt Stairs had two RBIs.
Overbay smacked three hits and scored three times, while Rios, Scutaro, Joe Inglett, Adam Lind and Vernon Wells each had one RBI.
Burnett (7-7) pitched eight impressive innings, permitting just one run on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.
"[He] pitched like a champion," Gaston said.
"They gave him plenty of breathing room from the beginning and let him relax and throw whatever he wanted to throw," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Arroyo raked for 10 runs
Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo (5-6), winless in five starts, was torched for 10 runs on 11 hits, including three homers, before, mercifully, being yanked with none out in the second inning.
"I probably could have told them what [pitch] was coming and fared better," he said.
Arroyo is the sixth pitcher in major-league history to give up 10 earned runs and retire no more than three batters.
"It seemed no matter what he threw, he could not get them out," Baker said. "There were just a lot of balls in the centre of the plate, and it is hard to get guys out in the centre of the plate."
Toronto struck for six runs in the bottom of the first inning as Scutaro walked, Inglett singled and Rios singled to bring up Stairs, who plated one run with a sacrifice fly.
Rolen followed with a three-run homer to centre field, his fifth of the season.
Overbay doubled and Zaun belted a two-run homer to right off Arroyo, his fifth.
Rookie Jay Bruce had the lone RBI for the Reds (35-43) as he delivered in Brandon Phillips with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the top of the second inning.
That trimmed the deficit to 6-1, but Toronto responded by piling up five more runs in the bottom of the second.
"The game was two hours old and we had been on defence for one hour and 45 minutes," Baker said. "That is tough, man."
Rios led off the second with a homer to left, his first since May 1 and fourth overall.
After Wells singled and Stairs and Rolen hit back-to-back doubles to make it 9-1, Reds reliever Gary Majewski took the mound and surrendered an RBI single to Lind and a run-scoring grounder to Inglett.
Toronto sent 12 men to the plate in the first and 10 in the second.
"The good thing was we came back and did it the next inning," Wells said. "That shows we're, hopefully, turning the corner here."
The last time the Blue Jays batted through the order in the opening two innings was May 26, 1997 — with Gaston as manager.