Wells points Marcum towards win
Four-RBI day helps pitcher stay perfect as starter
TORONTO -- When the baseball jumped off Vernon Wells' bat, he couldn't help but watch. As it arced high in the air and traveled toward the second deck in left field, the Blue Jays' center fielder began to remember what it felt like to hit a home run.
"It felt really good. It's been a while," Wells said with a laugh. "When I hit it, I looked at the ball and said, 'Man, I haven't seen a ball fly off my bat like that in a while.' It kind of shocked me for a second and I started jogging."
For the second day in a row, Wells was able to smile, making his season-long woes at the plate seem like ancient history. On Saturday afternoon, he was quick to point out the face that it had "only been two games," but there's no denying that Wells' latest peformance -- highlighted by the third-inning blast -- ignited Toronto's lineup in a 7-3 win over Washington.
The Blue Jays (33-34) also received another stellar outing from Shaun Marcum, who struck out a career-high 11 batters and improved to 3-0 with a 2.38 ERA as a member of the rotation. Unlike most of the season, though, the Jays' bats were working in unison with the pitching staff, leading to a relatively smooth win over the Nationals.
"The only reason we're at where we're at right now," Wells said, "is because of those guys who have been going on the mound and giving us a chance to win every night. It does take a little stress off of us, but we need to go out and continue to score runs."
At the heart of the problem for Toronto's feast-or-famine offense is the inconsistent output by Wells. His most recent showing -- going 2-for-3 with a season-high four RBIs -- only provided more evidence to how integral Wells is to the success of the offense, which ranks near the bottom of the American League in multiple categories.
In the 23 games that the Blue Jays have scored six runs or more, Wells has hit .433 with five home runs and 26 RBIs, leading the club to a 19-4 record. In the 44 games in which Toronto has plated five runs or fewer, the team has gone 14-30, and Wells has posted a dismal .158 average with just one home run and eight RBIs.
"I'm suprised it's been that many games," said Wells, referring to how many times Toronto has scored six runs or more. "I need to be one of the guys who's swinging the bat well. When you're hitting in that two or three spot, your job is to get things going.
"I haven't been doing a good job of that so far this season. Hopefully, this is a start of me being a catalyst for this lineup."
The win over Washington (29-39) marked the third game in a row that the Jays have scored at least seven runs, and Wells has gone 5-for-9 at the plate during that stretch. On Saturday, his two-run homer off Nationals starter Levale Speigner put Toronto ahead, 3-1. It was Wells' first blast since May 20, ending a homerless drought of 23 games and 88 at-bats.
"You've got to ride out those tough times," Toronto manager John Gibbons said about Wells. "He's a good hitter -- always has been and always will be. It's kind of like that nine-game slide we had earlier in the year. It looks like we came out of it and he's doing the same thing now."
Marcum (4-2) had plenty of breathing room, thanks to the support from his offense. The right-hander baffled the Nationals with his dancing changeup and cruised through seven innings for Toronto. He gave up just three hits, including a solo home run each to Dmitri Young and Ryan Zimmerman.
"[Marcum] was oustanding," Gibbons said. "What can you say? He's been that way since Day 1, when he stepped into the rotation. He shut them down and we got some runs to work with."
Providing Toronto's pitching staff with plenty of support is something the Jays' hitters understand needs to happen more often. Ask Wells, and he'll man up and say it begins with him.
"We need to give our pitchers a break," Wells said. "Everyone knows that we should be scoring runs and we should be doing more. Obviously, with the struggles that I've had, I know I've been a big part of why we haven't been scoring runs. It's my job to turn it around."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.