Jays ride Halladay to victory

Jays ride Halladay to victory

TORONTO -- It's just one game, but the plan Toronto mapped out for this season has paid early dividends.

The ace held the opposition in check, the new bats provided an offensive punch, and the big closer shut down the final frame. When it was all said and done, the Blue Jays gave the standing-room only crowd at Rogers Centre plenty to be excited about with a 6-3 victory over the Twins in their season opener on Tuesday.

"Everybody did something, and that's a big part of our team this year -- the fact that we're going to rely on everybody and nobody has to carry the load," said Toronto starter Roy Halladay, who picked up the first win of the year. "To be able to see that type of game the first time out, where everybody's doing something, everybody's involved, that really plays into what we need to do all year."

It didn't take the 50,449 fans in attendance long to warm up to the new faces on the field, either.

In the fourth inning, new catcher Bengie Molina hit a mammoth home run off Minnesota left-hander Johan Santana, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2004. Molina pulled the first pitch he saw and sent it off the facing of the fifth deck just to the right of the left-field foul pole, giving Toronto a 3-1 lead.

When the ball left his bat, Molina had his doubts that the ball would stay fair.

"Oh my gosh, I was praying so hard," Molina said. "I had no words. I was thinking so hard, 'Please, don't go foul.' I don't know when I'll hit another one of those. And, you know, it stayed fair."

Molina gave a fist pump as he crossed home plate and the crowd cheered him on with chants of "Bengie! Bengie!"

"Unbelievable feeling. Unbelievable," said Molina, who holds a .478 career average against Santana. "[I've had my name chanted] only a few times in the playoffs. It felt good. It felt great. I just hope [the fans] know that they are a big part in this."

Molina's blast highlighted the offense, which had eight of its starters manage at least one hit off Santana (0-1). New third baseman Troy Glaus and new first baseman Lyle Overbay reached with hits prior to Molina's home run, and shortstop Russ Adams hit a two-out RBI single in the sixth inning. In the eighth, right fielder Alex Rios capped off the Jays' output with a two-run homer with two outs.

After Halladay turned in 7 2/3 strong innings and reliever Scott Schoeneweis finished off the eighth inning, Toronto (1-0) turned to its new closer, B.J. Ryan, who signed a five-year, $47 million contract with the team this past winter.

Ryan set down the only three batters he faced and, this time, the crowd backed him by chanting his name, too. After striking out the last two Twins hitters, Ryan let out a shout and picked up his first save as a Blue Jay.

"I was fired up. It's Opening Day," Ryan said. "Every Opening Day is great. New team. Expectations are high. You want to go out there and prove yourself."

"We did a little bit of everything tonight," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "Halladay did his thing and the new guys pitched in, one way or another."

Halladay (1-0), who won the AL Cy Young Award in '03, "did his thing" by holding Minnesota (0-1) to three runs -- two earned -- with four strikeouts and no walks. The right-hander yielded solo home runs to Tony Batista and Shannon Stewart, but he induced a lot of ground balls and showed no lingering effects from the broken left leg that ended his season last July.

"Knowing a guy can dominate like that and knowing it's just the first start, it's very exciting," Molina said. "You're very intense out there because you want do so well for him."

Gibbons was just as impressed.

"[Halladay] rises to the occasion. He's got such overpowering stuff," Gibbons said. "That's what separates him from other guys -- his makeup, his mentality. He's intimidating."

Santana didn't fair as well. The lefty was chased after 5 2/3 innings and he took the loss after giving up four runs on 10 hits.

"Bengie hits that big ball early and that kind of gets the crowd going," Ryan said. "Once Santana gets rolling, he's tough, and that [homer] kind of startled them a little bit and got us going."

The flurry of offseason moves has created an excitement surrounding the Blue Jays that was more than evident during their first game in Toronto. If the win was any indication, the Jays could startle more than just the Twins.

"You saw it all tonight -- by design," Gibbons said with a smile.

It's only one game. But so far, so good.

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