Wells' key hits spark Jays to victory
Slugger homers in fourth, then starts go-ahead rally in seventh
TORONTO -- Vernon Wells recognized the baseball's rotation immediately. It was a curveball and the Blue Jays' center fielder was not fooled one bit.
Wells locked in, brought his bat back and swung quickly, sending the ball hurtling over the left-field wall. He then dropped his lumber and headed up the first-base line, easing into a steady trot as the baseball ricocheted off the facing of the third deck inside Rogers Centre.
"I hit that one pretty good," said a smirking Wells, following the Blue Jays' 4-3 victory over the Royals on Tuesday night.
That fourth-inning solo shot kept Wells' opening-season offensive tear alive. Perhaps more important for the Blue Jays was his seventh-inning double, which ignited a late rally to help Toronto piece together its fifth comeback win of the season. Now the Jays are poised for a sweep of the three-game set against the Royals.
After being swept by the Angels in a three-game series over the weekend, such a turnaround against Kansas City has been an encouraging development for the Blue Jays. Wells led the charge, but there were contributions throughout the lineup, helping to overcome an admittedly shaky evening on the mound for starter Dana Eveland.
In the season's early going, charging late has been a welcomed trend.
"One guy gets something started and it's kind of just everybody wants to jump on," Wells said. "I think that's the thing with this team. Guys continue to play no matter what the situation is, and that's kind of the beginning of trying to build something special around here."
Wells began Toronto's latest comeback with his towering solo blast off Royals starter Kyle Davies in the fourth inning, cutting Kansas City's lead to 3-2. In the seventh, Wells yanked the first pitch he received from Davies into left-center field for a leadoff double. The Jays (9-6) did not take long after that to chase Davies from the contest.
Lyle Overbay followed by drilling a pitch from Davies to deep center field, where outfielder Rick Ankiel was unable to make a catch as he closed in on the wall. The ball dropped in and Overbay reached with a double, but Wells had to hold up at third base. Two infield singles later -- one from Jose Bautista and another from John Buck -- and the Jays held a 4-3 advantage.
Eveland was as thrilled about that late push as anyone on the Jays.
"I didn't have my best stuff and obviously it showed," said Eveland, who allowed three runs -- two earned -- over 5 1/3 innings. "I did what I could to keep the team in the game, and these guys came out and swung the bats late, and we pulled through. So I'm real happy."
After the Jays' offense spotted Eveland a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the left-hander gave it away quickly. Eveland allowed four singles in the second, paving the way for a pair of runs that put Toronto behind, 2-1. A costly fielding error by Bautista at third base an inning later then opened the door for an RBI double from Alberto Callaspo.
From there, Wells went to work against the Royals (5-9), finishing 3-for-4 with the home run, two doubles and a pair of runs scored.
"Right now, he's pretty much just hitting everything up there," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "We just hope he continues to do that. I'm seeing the Vernon that I didn't see last year."
Last year is when Wells kept quiet about an ailing left wrist injury that ultimately required surgery over the offseason. Toronto's center fielder has never used the issue as an excuse for the worst offensive showing of his career, and Gaston is quick to note that Wells never once complained about pain during his 158 games played in 2009.
That, though, is in the past.
Currently, Wells is performing at a level reminiscent of his 2006 campaign, when he made an All-Star team, earned a Silver Slugger Award and was handed a seven-year extension worth $126 million by the Jays. Through 15 games, Wells is hitting .364 and with seven homers (tied for first in the Majors) and 47 total bases (first in the Majors).
"He's been swinging a hot bat all season," Eveland said. "I hope he does it all year. I think I heard he's leading the league in homers now and total bases and all kinds of stuff. He's been real hot for us. Obviously, it's much appreciated by his pitchers."
Is Wells' early-season production the result of finally being completely healthy?
"There's a lot of things that go into play," Wells said.
Wells is quick to credit the work he has put in with hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, who had the center fielder make a slight alteration with his hands while swinging. The change has paid early dividends, but Wells understands as well as anyone that 15 games does not make a season.
"It's just over two weeks or whatever," Wells said. "I'm continuing to work and continuing to try to get better. That's the goal, no matter how you're doing."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.