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  Thu, July 29, 2004


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Wells a one-man show
Outfielder leads Jays to victory
By MIKE RUTSEY -- Toronto Sun

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Chris Gomez, left, tags out New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez as he attempts to steal second base during fourth inning AL action in Toronto Wednesday July 28, 2004. (CP PHOTO/Aaron Harris)

Blue Jays' Vernon Wells is billed as a five-tool player but at the start of yesterday's game he looked as if he didn't have any.

In his first two at-bats against New York Yankees starter Jon Lieber, Wells looked as pitiful as a hitter can be as in each at-bat he struck out -- chasing breaking balls off the plate.

But in the eighth, Wells and his teammates got it in gear.

Wells showed his speed on the bases when in that inning, following a good read by third base coach Brian Butterfield, he scored from first on a double by Carlos Delgado to tie the game. Then in the top of the 10th he flashed his leather as he raced back to the wall at full speed to haul in a Derek Jeter drive that had extra bases written all over it.

Wells saved his best for last as with one out in the bottom of the 10th he lined a 2-1 pitch from Scott Proctor into the bullpen in left to power the Jays to a much-needed 3-2 win.

It marked their first victory over the Bronx Bombers in five meetings following two losses in New York and two numbing defeats the past two nights.

"He's a tremendous player," manager Carlos Tosca said of his centre fielder. "It hasn't been easy for him with the injury (to his right calf), trying to come back. He hasn't said anything to anybody but he popped his knee pretty good the other night on the ball he didn't catch.

"He's as good a player as there is in the American League."

Wells is the Jays' official pie man, the player who creams his teammates during TV interviews following wins. There was no one to fill those shoes last night following his heroics.

"It's good to win close ball games," Wells said, his face unmarked by shaving cream. "We've been battling with these guys and just haven't come out on the right end. It's good to finally come out on the winning side for once."

The homer was his third in the 13 games he has played since returning to the lineup.

"It's still a work in progress," he said of his hitting. "I feel great some times and some times I look like I can't hit a baseball to save my life. It's frustrating but if I can get through this, continue to improve, then hopefully turn the season around."

The win was a long time coming for the Jays and Tosca as they lost a 6-5 heartbreaker Monday and blew a 2-1 lead in the eighth on Tuesday.

"I've told you guys we've got enough character already, okay" Tosca said of the win. "We're full of character. We need some wins.

"To get a big win like that and end the homestand at 4-2, that was big."

To win the close ones you have to do special things on the mound and it started with Miguel Batista who allowed two runs and eight hits over seven innings.

Vinnie Chulk worked a scoreless eighth before Jason Frasor blanked the Yankees over the final two frames.

"It was tremendous pitching, tremendous," Toscs said. "This is a club that throws up seven, eight runs a night. Miggy holding those guys down and then Vinnie coming in there and Fras, you can't ask for anything better than that.

"Once you start doing those things hopefully it will take a little burden off the offence and we can loosen up a little bit and do what we're capable of doing."