Wells the hero as Angels beat Jays

Los Angeles Angels' Vernon Wells waves to the crowd after receiving a standing ovation against his...

Los Angeles Angels' Vernon Wells waves to the crowd after receiving a standing ovation against his former team the Toronto Blue Jays. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:24 PM ET

Vernon Wells has always been one cool, laid back cat.

Few, though, figured that Wells would have orchestrated such a dramatic return to the building where for the 12 preceding years he patrolled centre field with such grace and elegance.

Having been traded away to the Los Angeles Angels back in January, Wells was making his return to the scene of the crime, as it were.

Batting sixth in the Angels lineup Friday night, Wells made it to the plate with two out and nobody on in the second inning. What followed was unexpected and pure theatre.

A figure of derision for most of his final two seasons here, the crowd of 24,731 turned in his favour at his comeback as they stood and gave him a long, loud and heartfelt ovation.

“I don’t know,” Wells said prior to the game when asked what he figured the crowd reaction would be. “It could be a mix of both (cheers and boos). One thing I’ve learned is you can’t control that. I feel like I left on good terms. Hopefully it will be a good reaction. If not, then I’ll get in the box and try to hit a homer.”

It turns out Wells was right on both counts.

The reaction was terrific. Then once he stepped back into the box he ripped at the first pitch from Brandon Morrow, hit it on the screws, and lifted it over the fence in left-centre for his 17th home run of the season.

“It’s fitting,” Morrow said of the Wells home run. “He had a great career here and gave the fans a little something.”

For Wells, it was the stuff of dreams in a game the Angels would go on to win by a 5-1 margin.

But it didn’t stop there as in the bottom of the third, Wells picked up a ball that Jose Molina had hit off the wall in centre and bounded by Peter Bourjos and threw a strike to third to nail the Jays catcher.

“It was a special moment,” Wells said of his at-bat in the second. “Obviously walking up to the plate, the fans reaction. We kind of joked in the clubhouse a little bit. If you do get a standing O they can turn to boos in a heart beat if you hit a homer.

“Obviously I didn’t see that happening but it was a cool moment, a moment I’ll never forget. I’m going to enjoy every time I come back here. This city has meant so much to me and it was very touching to see the reaction I got when I went to the plate. Thanks to the fans.”

For the second consecutive game, it was a dreadful defensive performance by the Jays, who committed three errors, two by Jose Bautista in right.

The low point may have occurred in the sixth when all the infielders lost a high pop in the gloam and it clanked off the glove of Morrow who hustled too late to make the catch near the first-base line.

“I don’t know if it’s a lack of concentration but we’ve mishandled some balls, no question about it,” Farrell said. “We’ve got to play better on defence, that’s one thing that we do have the ability to control.

“Are they (errors) going to happen? Yeah they are. But when they come in bunches it starts to look glaring. Tomorrow we’ll make a couple of adjustments to give a couple of guys a blow (a day off).”

Offensively the Jays couldn’t manage much against Ervin Santana, who has allowed one run or less in each of his last five starts — all wins.

The Jays were staring at a shutout until with one out, Eric Thames drilled a solo shot to right-centre for his sixth homer of the season.

Wells, meanwhile, returned to Toronto not in personal triumph due to an embarrassing .208 batting average, but in triumph nonetheless due to the fact he was on a team that unlike the Jays is in a pennant chase.

Even though his batting average and RBI totals are down, Wells said the fact he is in a pennant race for the first time takes the sting out of his failures to produce.

“You look at the numbers and my numbers have been down in different areas but the thing about this situation now is that it doesn’t matter what’s happened, it doesn’t matter what your numbers are,” he said. “The only number that matters is those two games that you’re back (of Texas).

It’s something that never came in his days with the Jays.

“I’ll take this situation because I haven’t had a chance to play in the post-season,” he said. “Individual numbers are great but at the end of the day you want to be in the post-season, you want to win a World Series, you want to have a chance to be there. I’ve been able to accomplish a lot as an individual and it really hasn’t got me anywhere except being home watching October baseball.”

His average may be down, but Jays manager John Farrell doesn’t consider Wells a dud this season.

“He’s a dangerous hitter, no question,” Farrell said. “I always remembered him as a premium defender in centre field, a multi-talented player.

“When Vernon Wells name comes to mind, it’s not as a .210 hitter, I can tell you that.”

No need telling Brandon Morrow either.


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