Toronto Blue Jays: Inside Pitch

A Jays-Expos series every year made perfect sense, but the Montreal franchise has moved to DC, making the Jays-Nats series a bit odd but still interesting. A look at Washington's upcoming opponent.

INSIDE PITCH

Struggling Blue Jays left-hander Ted Lilly's stint on the sidelines turned out to be shorter than expected. Lilly and his 10.41 ERA, not to mention that .364 opposition batting average, will be back on the mound Friday to face the Washington Nationals in an interleague game at Rogers Centre.

Lilly threw a simulated game Tuesday in Minneapolis and despite limited progress then, it was decided he would be better off working out his problems in a game situation.

Initially manager John Gibbons was leaning towards letting Lilly have another simulated game, but after talking with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and bullpen coach Bruce Walton, decided to run him back out there.

The Jays will hold Roy Halladay back an extra day to give him some much-needed rest after a string of tough games including 124 pitches in his previous start Sunday. Josh Towers will take his four-game winning streak into the series finale on Sunday.

The Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, are no longer a geographical rival but the uncertainty of their move to Washington over the off-season forced the interleague schedule to remain in place in 2005. The Jays own a 24-19 advantage in head-to-head play with the former Expos. NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Josh Towers is leading the charmed life these days.

How else to explain a night when he's matched up against defending AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana, feels completely unable to locate his pitches, and still comes out of it with a 10-3 win.

Towers made it through the minimum five innings with a 5-2 lead, and then sat back and watched as his bullpen finished the job while the offense continued to pile on the runs against the Minnesota Twins.

"I didn't feel that great from the beginning," Towers said. "I went 3-0 on (Shannon Stewart) to start the game and it was like I couldn't locate the ball at all. Somehow I got some outs. As much as I wanted to go out and throw every inning I thought taking me out (after five) was the right decision because we have to win that game. I just didn't have it today."

Towers has now won his past four decisions and improved to 5-1.

The Jays' No. 5 starter was working on a full seven days rest, the result of a handful of off days his past week and a half and said that contributed to his lack of crispness.

He blamed himself, however for not doing extra throwing during the extra-long break.

--Vernon Wells, with his second homer in as many days Tuesday, seems to have come out of his April, early May skid. Wells had a two-run homer in the first inning off Johan Santana and added an RBI-single later in the game. It's the first time he has hit homers in consecutive games since July 27th and 28th last year, both games against the New York Yankees.

--Reliever Jason Frasor stranded two more inherited runners Tuesday night, extending his streak to 10 for the season.

--Orlando Hudson's homer in the sixth inning Tuesday was his fifth career homer off a left-hander and first this year.

--Catcher Ken Huckaby threw out six of the first seven would-be base stealers since Gregg Zaun went on the disabled list with a concussion.

--Right fielder Alex Rios continues to shine in the leadoff spot. In his second game hitting at the top of the Jays order, Rios went 3-for-5 with a pair of runs scored. Sunday in Cleveland, he was 2-for-3 with a walk and a solo homer.

--The Jays and Oakland A's pulled off a minor trade Sunday, Toronto sending right-hander Ryan Glynn to Oakland in exchange for cash considerations. In six starts with Triple-A Syracuse, Glynn was 2-4 with a 6.27 ERA.

--RHP Roy Halladay passed former Jay Kelvim Escobar on the all-time Blue Jays strikeout list Sunday. Halladay registered six strikeouts in the game but needed just two to leap-frog the current Angels starter on the list and into sixth. Next on the list is David Wells, who had 784 strikeouts as a Jay. Including the six on Sunday, Halladay sits at 749.

--It wasn't quite an all-nighter, but Vernon Wells took a little homework home with him Saturday night and it paid immediate dividends.

Wells, mired in a hitting slump since the season began, had limited his contributions to mostly singles until Sunday when he homered off Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia in the eighth inning to drive in three, the big blow in a 5-2 win.

"I took my hits DVD from 2003 with me back to the hotel and pretty much fell asleep watching it," Wells said. "I was just trying to pick apart everything and get everything back to simplicity. I think everything is in the timing. Getting my foot down and giving myself a chance to get to any pitch they throw to me. Today I was able to get to a couple."

Asked if that late-night video work might become part of his routine, Wells replied, "It may have to but my wife may not like it once she gets down. I'll just continue to try to get better. Wells had 2-for-4 afternoon Sunday that bumped his season average to .214. The three RBIs were a season high.

--The win by the Blue Jays over Cleveland on Sunday was their first over the Indians in eight games. The last time the Jays defeated Cleveland was Aug. 3 of last season.

--Jays first base coach Ernie Whitt was in Cleveland 24 years ago Sunday when Len Barker tossed his perfect game against the Blue Jays. Whitt, on to pinch hit in the ninth with two out, hit a pop fly to center for the final out of the game. Team personnel had Barker sign a ball to Whitt yesterday. "To Ernie. Couldn't have done it without you. Len Barker." The Jays were planning to present the ball to Whitt on the flight to Minnesota.

--John McDonald had a nice return to his old stomping grounds in Cleveland. Starting two of the three games at shortstop, McDonald went 3-for-7 with an RBI. He has now hit in eight of his past nine starts (.370, 10-for-27).

BY THE NUMBERS: 330 -- Number of at-bats between the first and second home runs in the career of Jays outfielder Alex Rios. Rios hit his first career home run Aug. 1, 2004. No. 2 came Friday night (May 13) in Cleveland. No. 3 came two days and seven at-bats later, also in Cleveland.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's two in three days. Now maybe you guys can quit complaining." -- Jays manager John Gibbons on outfielder Alex Rios' two-homer weekend after hitting just one in his first 545 at-bats. ROSTER REPORT


ROTATION:
1. RHP Roy Halladay
2. LHP Gustavo Chacin
3. RHP Josh Towers
4. RHP David Bush
5. LHP Ted Lilly

BULLPEN:
RHP Miguel Batista (closer)
RHP Justin Speier
RHP Jason Frasor
LHP Scott Schoeneweis
RHP Pete Walker
RHP Vinnie Chulk
LHP Scott Downs

LINEUP:
1. LF Frank Catalanotto/Reed Johnson
2. 2B Orlando Hudson
3. CF Vernon Wells
4. 3B Corey Koskie
5. DH Shea Hillenbrand
6. 1B Eric Hinske
7. C Ken Huckaby
8. RF Alex Rios
9. SS Russ Adams

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