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Tony Batista was looking for a fastball away, as he usually does when he is at the plate with that wide-open stance of his.

Billy Koch, the kid closer, was looking for a saviour after failing to be the saver by giving up two runs to the Kansas City Royals in the top of the ninth inning.

Now, with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning and no one on base, what Batista saw on the 1-1 pitch was a slider from Jerry Spradlin. The right-hander had previously thrown the pitch to Batista, effectively.

"It was a little bit in the middle," Batista said. "It was just going outside when I hit it."

The ball travelled an estimated 404 feet and it brought joy to an announced crowd of 40,898, gave Batista a second home run and gave the Toronto Blue Jays a 5-4 victory on opening day at the SkyDome yesterday.

It brought mostly relief to Koch as well as his first major-league victory in the way no closer wants to get it. In a Timlinesque outing, he gave up two runs in the top of the ninth inning on a one-out walk and two hits.

The victory displayed another aspect of the Blue Jays' offence that is deemed to be more balanced than most. There is speed to burn at the top of the lineup, but yesterday it was the power that carried the Blue Jays.

Shannon Stewart, better known for stealing bases than circling them, led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run on a 1-1 fastball from Jeff Suppan.

"I try to visualize things," Stewart said. "I had visualized hitting a home run, so when I hit it a home run, I felt like I was dreaming."

He knew he was awake when he hit a two-out homer with none on in the fifth inning on Jeff Suppan's 0-1 pitch. Stewart also made a good catch at the warning track on Joe Randa's drive over his head in the second inning.

Batista had hit a 408-foot homer to left field in the fourth inning after Brad Fullmer's two-out bloop single.

"He can hit," Koch said of Batista. "Actually, we were talking about it the other day when he hit a home run. He swings the bat so easy and he hits the ball out of the park. He's a great hitter. He sees the ball real well. In the field, no matter where his feet are, he gets rid of the ball."

Batista has been a revelation since the Arizona Diamondbacks found him dispensable and traded him to the Blue Jays last June with right-handed reliever John Frascatore for left-handed reliever Dan Plesac.

The Blue Jays needed a shortstop because Alex Gonzalez was injured and would miss the rest of the season. Now that Gonzalez is back, Batista has moved to third base and yesterday made a play that would have not been made last season.

Whatever he does in the field almost becomes a bonus because he has continually come up with big hits late in games.

Combining his Arizona and Toronto totals, he had 31 homers and 100 runs batted in last season.

"I've never seen a guy get so many big hits," Blue Jays manager Jim Fregosi said.

It was a game that became more tense than it should have. The Blue Jays had opened a 4-0 lead against Suppan.

And the score was 4-2 going into the ninth inning -- time for Koch, who had earned the job with 31 saves last year after being called up in early May from Triple A, where he was a starter.

His pitches sometimes hit 100 miles an hour as usual yesterday, and he retired his first batter on a comebacker to the mound. But he walked Randa and that proved to be harmful.

"Walks are going to kill you, especially in that situation, it's unacceptable," Koch said. "I think they all know the fastball is coming. I just had bad location."

Mark Quinn doubled to left field. Pinch-hitter Scott Pose struck out, but pinch-hitter Gregg Zaun grounded a single to right to tie the score.

"I'll be fine tomorrow," Koch said. "I want to get back out there and keep the team winning."

"He's still a young pitcher," Fregosi said. "He was trying to overthrow. He was excited. It's opening day."

He said he could take the way things worked out. "I don't have any mixed emotions about it at all," Fregosi said. "It was a great win."

Koch cost left-hander David Wells the victory. Wells had pitched superbly through six innings. He had not pitched against major-league hitters since March 21, when he went five innings in an 8-3 exhibition victory over the New York Yankees in Tampa. He lasted one inning of a minor-league exhibition game on March 26 and left when his back stiffened up.

But he entered the seventh inning yesterday, having given up two hits and no runs.

Then the Royals reached him for three successive hits without an out. Carlos Beltran led off with a bloop single to centre field that eluded Jose Cruz Jr. Jermaine Dye's run-scoring double to right centre brought out pitching coach Rick Langford for a visit as Paul Quantrill warmed up.

Mike Sweeney singled to put Dye at third base. Quantrill replaced Wells, whose shaved scalp glistened in the lights as took off his cap to acknowledge the standing ovation. He had made 83 pitches, 57 of them for strikes.

Randa hit a high chop to third base for a single that scored Dye. Quantrill ended the inning with two strikeouts and a pop-up.

Quantrill wasn't around for such situations until mid-June last year because he had suffered a broken leg in a snowmobile accident in January.

Suppan gave up four runs on five hits, three of them home runs in five innings. He had been suffering from the flu on Sunday. He made 80 pitches, 51 of them for strikes. WHY THE BLUE JAYS WON The Toronto Blue Jays like to talk about their diversified offence, and they showed it yesterday in squeaking out the opening day victory over the Kansas City Royals. All five runs were scored with the home run. Left fielder Shannon Stewart, who is known more for his speed, hit two home runs, as did third baseman Tony Batista. Batista's ninth-inning homer won the game. Stewart also contributed a fine catch in the second inning. David Wells pitched strongly into the seventh inning, and reliever Paul Quantrill worked out of a seventh-inning jam.