Blue Jays overcome Koch, beat Devil Rays again

Updated: April 5, 2005, 11:48 PM ET
SportsTicker

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Billy Koch could not have been happy with what he saw.

With Koch heckling his former teammates from the stands, the Toronto Blue Jays erupted for five runs in the sixth inning en route to a 6-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

A former Blue Jays closer, Koch signed a one-year contract worth $900,000 with the team in the offseason. But he struggled in spring training, posting a 15.00 ERA in three outings before being released on March 17.

Upset with his release, Koch made his way to Tropicana Field to root against the team he saved 110 games for from 1999-2001, wearing an Aubrey Huff jersey and a Devil Rays hat while sitting in the stands with his 4-year-old daughter, Madyson.

"I went down (to the bullpen) and they said it's the funniest thing they had ever seen," said Koch, who lives in nearby Clearwater Beach. "Maybe (Devil Rays general manager) Chuck (LaMar) is up in the box and he'll see me and offer me a contract."

Koch had another reason to be disappointed after the Blue Jays batted around in the sixth against the ineffective Devil Rays' bullpen to take a 6-1 lead. Shea Hillenbrand's two-run single highlighted the uprising, which also featured RBIs base hits by Gregg Zaun and John McDonald and a sacrifice fly by Alexis Rios.

"It's always a bonus to help out with the bat," said McDonald, who had three of Toronto's 10 hits. "I've been working hard at the plate. It was a good way for us to start (Monday) and then keep it going today."

The rally made a winner of 24-year-old rookie Gustavo Chacin (1-0), who was making just his third career start. The lefthander went five innings and allowed one run, three hits and a walk, striking out three.

"This year I feel a little bit more comfortable and relaxed," Chacin said. "I've got to keep doing the same thing, working hard and preparing for my next start."

Three relievers gave up two runs in three innings before converted starter Miguel Batista worked a perfect ninth for his second save in as many days.

"Chacin pitched so good for five, then we figured we would turn it over to the bullpen," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He looked like what we saw last year. He's got an idea out there. He's a good young pitcher."

Seth McClung (0-1), who relieved rookie Scott Kazmir to start the sixth, took the loss after retiring just one batter and allowing five runs and four hits in his first appearance since the 2003 season.

"It's not the homecoming I wanted," McClung said. "I put my team in a pretty tough situation and didn't pitch well. I'm not going to sugarcoat it."

Kazmir, one of baseball's top young prospects, went the first five innings and gave up one run and three hits. The 21-year-old lefthander walked two and struck out two.

"We had him on a pitch count of 95 and by the fifth inning he was at 89," Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. "We said we would be careful with him and we are. You can't be discouraged. He should have had five shut out innings, really."

Alex Gonzalez, a former Blue Jay, belted a solo homer in the fifth for the Devil Rays, whose bullpen has an 11.11 ERA after two games.

"That's why spring training fools you," said Piniella, whose team was solid out of the bullpen in the spring. "With young pitching you're going to have to have patience with it sometimes."

Tampa Bay is 0-2 for the first time in its eight-year history.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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