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  Tue, August 3, 2004


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Jays enjoy their holiday
Simcoe Day shuffle works
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

Cleveland Indians' Coco Crisp, foreground, is tagged out stretching second by Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Orlando Hudson during first inning action in Toronto Monday afternoon. (CP Photo/Aaron Harris)

Another grand tradition of the historic Simcoe Day and first Monday of the month off has begun.

Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca unveiled a revamped lineup yesterday afternoon to a scant holiday crowd of 17,549 at the SkyDome.

Hitting in third spot was rookie Alex Rios, who has hit in the leadoff spot the previous four games, while Vernon Wells was dropped to the No. 5 spot. For this Simcoe Day, third baseman Frank Menechino was in the leadoff spot.

By the time Ted Lilly took the mound in the top of the second, the Jays had a 4-0 lead against Cleveland Indians lefty Cliff Lee.

Toronto rode its four-run first inning and Lilly's left arm to a 6-1 victory.

Ten years ago, the Simcoe Day tradition would have consisted of dropping leadoff man Devon White to the No. 3 spot and Paul Molitor to the sixth in the order.

With one out in the first, Chris Gomez reached on a grounder off the glove of Cleveland second baseman Ronnie Belliard.

Originally scored a hit, scorer Doug Hobbs later changed his mind and marked it E-4.

Rios followed with a single to left. One out later, Wells hit a 2-1 pitch for a three-run homer and designated hitter John Phelps followed with a solo shot on the very next pitch.

There was another new wrinkle in honour of Simcoe Day, which almost fell under the you-can-go-to-a-game-and-see-something-you've-never-seen-before category.

We once saw Andre Dawson of the Chicago Cubs crush a ball off the right eye of Montreal Expos third baseman Tim Wallach. That ball bounced into the Cubs dugout for a ground-rule infield double.

Yesterday, Carlos Delgado almost replicated Dawson's feat to account for the Jays' sixth and final run in the fifth inning when his two-hopper felled Indians first baseman Lou Merloni. The ball trickled into foul territory for a run-scoring double.

Delgado thought the two-hopper hit the dirt and kicked up, while Merloni thought it hit a seam. Either way it took an unfriendly hop into Merloni's kisser.

"That's what happens when you play on this stuff, that's why more and more teams are getting rid of it (artificial turf)," Merloni said.

The drive struck with such a force it popped out one of the lens on his sunglasses.

"The sunglasses saved me ... if not for the glasses, the ball would have hit me in the skull," said Merloni, who thankfully wasn't injured.

Wells' homer was his fourth since returning from the disabled list July 16. He is hitting .232 with eight RBIs in 17 games after tearing his left calf muscle, causing him to miss 24 games.

"I take the same approach into the game no matter where I am in the lineup -- see ball, hit ball," Wells said. "It doesn't matter where I hit."

Wells left the game in the sixth after fouling a ball off his left calf. He said it was a deep bruise but hopes to play against the Indians tonight.

Lilly worked seven solid innings, allowing three hits and one run while walking two and striking out four to move to 8-7.

It has been a season in which no one has had to look up whether there were two 'g's' in the word juggernaut, since it clearly doesn't apply to these Jays.

But to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart when he looked into Ingrid Bergman's eyes in the movie Casablanca:

"We'll always have Simcoe Day."