Jays move back above .500

Toronto Blue Jays catcher Jeff Mathis hits a double, driving in three runs against the Detroit...

Toronto Blue Jays catcher Jeff Mathis hits a double, driving in three runs against the Detroit Tigers in the fourth inning of their American League MLB baseball game in Toronto July 27, 2012. (REUTERS)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:12 PM ET

TORONTO - The Blue Jays were initially attracted to Jeff Mathis for his ability behind the plate.

Now they also like what they see from him in the batter’s box.

Mathis, who has assumed the No. 1 catching duties in the wake of J.P. Arencibia’s hand injury, provided the key hit of the game in Friday’s 8-3 victory over Detroit when with two out and the bases loaded in the fourth, he drilled a line drive over the head of left fielder Quintin Berry that resulted in a three-run double.

The double also extended Mathis’ hit streak to eight games where in the process he is batting .420 (13-for-31).

On a season with limited duty, Mathis is hitting .264, which is a decided upgrade over the .174 average he posted last season with the Angels.

“A pitch up in the zone that I could handle,” Mathis said of what he was looking for in his at-bat in the fourth. “Snide (Travis Snider) had a great at-bat in front of me to get on (via a walk). He hung a slider and I got a good piece of wood on it.”

The results are the by-product to the work he has put in.

“Me and Murph (hitting coach Dwayne Murphy) have been working on some things, making some adjustments,” Mathis said. “I’m starting to feel more comfortable at the plate and confident. I’m just seeing some pitches better, having better at-bats, getting myself in better counts — all that plays.”

What he hasn’t had this season is a lot of playing time but that has changed due to Arencibia’s injury.

With the win, the Jays moved back over the .500 mark at 50-49 while starting pitcher Carlos Villanueva upped his record to 6-0.

The Tigers got to Villanueva for two runs in the first on solo homers by Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder and nothing more.

The game also featured the first two extra-base hits of the season for Omar Vizquel — a double in the first and RBI triple in the seventh.

Prior to the game, the Jays were forced to shuffle their lineup as SS Yunel Escobar and DH Adam Lind were scratched, both players suffering lower back pain.

WHERE’S TOUGH RICKY?

One of the hopes of the Jays amid their efforts to unlock the mystery of why Ricky Romero has been so dreadful of late is the switch to Mathis, who will catch him Monday in the wake of the broken hand suffered by Arencibia.

Mathis will offer a different perspective and the hope is the switch will be just the ticket that Romero needs.

Amid all the theories and conversations surrounding Romero, however, manager John Farrell at the end of his pre-game scrum boiled it all down to its simplicity.

“The bottom line, what I’d like to see from Ricky, is just to get back to the basics. Where’s the tough kid from East L.A.? Just know that there’s a confrontation between he and the guy in the box and trust that he’s got the upper hand no matter what pitch is called because he’s got the final say in that. Be convicted to that selection and let his natural competitiveness carry him through.”

Still, the different look that Mathis will bring could be beneficial.

“It very well could,” Farrell said when asked if Mathis could have an impact. “I don’t want to say that we’re anxious to see if that has any bearing but this will be a new matchup. It’s something that was considered previous to shake it up a little bit. But we’ll see.

“Maybe this is a fresh look, maybe a breath of fresh air in some ways for Ricky.”

The mental side of the game -- trust in himself, confidence -- is what is out of whack with Romero and it is that side of the game that is more difficult to turn around.

“The mental side of the game, so much of that happens in the moment,” Farrell said. “Being able to execute within that moment is where it all comes down to and that’s why we try to get back to the very basics of the game.

“Results have a lot to do with reinforcing that approach and when the results are elusive you’ve got to always go back to trusting the process and that can be fleeting for any athlete. You can talk all you want, but until the performance reinforces it, there’s always going to be some question in a players mind.”

When that switch gets flicked nobody knows. The only individual who can flick it is Romero.

We’ll see what happens Monday in Seattle.


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