BOSTON -- Before departing Toronto for the Blue Jays' current nine-game trip, second baseman Aaron Hill looked as though he was finally freeing himself of his season-long struggles at the plate. The road can be a cruel place.
Hill entered Sunday stuck in an 0-for-13 skid in the batter's box, and his showing throughout the stops in Anaheim, Oakland and Boston has been rough as a whole. Manager Cito Gaston said Hill's offensive woes stem from poor pitch selection, which has been an issue all year for the second baseman.
"We've been talking about getting pitches he can handle," Gaston said on Sunday. "Stop hitting their pitches. That's all. Be ready to hit the pitch that you want to hit. That's pretty much what hitting is about."
Gaston believes that players can sometimes get overloaded with information about what pitchers are throwing and how they plan on approaching each hitter. Gaston said he believes his batters -- Hill included -- need to focus more on how they plan on attacking the pitchers.
"It's back to you and what you want to do and what you want to hit," Gaston said. "That's what you really should key on. Every hitter should be that way, but we have so much information these days that I think sometimes that gets lost in there.
"They're sucking up the information. I don't care what [the pitcher] has. I'm going to think about what I want to do."
On the current road trip, Hill has gone 5-for-30 at the plate, with no home runs and three RBIs. That drought follows a 26-game stretch during which the second baseman hit at a .287 clip, with seven homers and 15 RBIs. Overall, Hill is hitting .210 with 18 home runs and 48 RBIs in 103 games this season.
Hill's showing is a drastic contrast to his performance in 2009, when he was named an American League All-Star and took home an AL Silver Slugger Award as well as the league's Comeback Player of the Year honor. He did so by hitting .286 with 36 homers and 108 RBIs.
Gaston said a major difference between this season and last year for Hill is the way opposing pitchers have approached the second baseman.
"They're pitching him different," Gaston said. "They're going to try to figure out a way to get you out. We do the same thing here. If a guy is killing us, we're going to try to find a different way to get him out if we can.
"They're pitching him away mostly, instead of coming in on him. They're trying to get him out with breaking balls, too."
McDonald always ready to play
BOSTON -- Veteran infielder John McDonald headed to Fenway Park this weekend as he does any series: ready for anything. As it turned out, McDonald found his way off the bench and into the lineup in the first two games against the Red Sox.
While filling in for ailing third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, all McDonald did on Friday and Saturday was go 4-for-9 at the plate, with a home run, two doubles and three RBIs. McDonald was again in the starting lineup on Sunday, hitting seventh and playing second base to give Aaron Hill a day off.
Manager Cito Gaston always marvels at McDonald's ability to be ready in any situation, even when the 35-year-old backup resides on the bench for an extended period of time.
"I'm impressed with Mac in that sense," Gaston said on Sunday. "Also, I'm impressed with the man Mac, the way he carries himself and the way he never complains when he's not playing. He just comes to play. Whenever you're ready for him to play, he's ready to play."
Encarnacion -- out of the lineup the past three games due to a sore left wrist -- remains day-to-day and Gaston hoped the third baseman would be able to return to the mix for the opener of a three-game set at home against the Yankees on Monday. Jose Bautista was penciled in at third base for Sunday's tilt in Boston.
"He's still a little sore," Gaston said of Encarnacion. "He tells me he can pinch-hit, but I probably won't use him. I just want to make sure he's OK and we'll see what happens tomorrow with him. Hopefully he's ready to play against the Yankees.
"Right now, [we think he can avoid the disabled list]. But we've said that before and had to turn it around. He's been X-rayed and everything, and everything seems to be OK."
Overbay has no qualms about bang-bang play
BOSTON -- First baseman Lyle Overbay was on the wrong end of one missed opportunity within Saturday's 5-4, 11-inning loss to the Red Sox. In the fourth inning, Overbay was thrown out at home plate in a violent rally-ending play.
With two outs and runners on first and second base, John McDonald sent a pitch from Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka deep to center field for a double. Third-base coach Brian Butterfield waved Overbay home from first base, and the Red Sox rushed to get a relay to the plate.
Boston center fielder Darnell McDonald quickly retrieved the baseball and fired it to second baseman Yamaico Navarro, who sent it to catcher Victor Martinez. The Red Sox catcher planted his feet and waited for Overbay, who plowed into Martinez, but was unable to jar the ball loose in a collision at the plate.
"When John hit it over his head, I thought it would bounce around and all that," Overbay said. "But they got it in pretty quick with a good relay. When I was coming in, I saw Aaron telling me to get down a lot earlier then normal, so I knew the ball was going to be there before me.
"It took two perfect throws. It's one of those things where you can't fault Butter. A lot of people say, 'Oh man, he shouldn't have sent him,' but it's hard to get a two-out hit, let alone getting another two-out hit. What are you going to do?"
At the end of the play, Martinez jumped up from the ground, yelled something at Overbay and tapped the Blue Jays' first baseman on the chest with his glove. It was an adrenaline-fueled reaction from the Boston catcher and Overbay did not take issue with it.
"He's excited," Overbay said. "Some guys take offense to that, but I'm just like that's part of the game. I'm glad he doesn't take offense to it, too. He got excited. There's nothing wrong with getting a little excited about it."
On July 30, outfielder Travis Snider was recalled from Double-A New Hampshire and manager Cito Gaston began rotating players around to spread playing time. In 13 games since then, outfielder Fred Lewis has hit .236 (13-for-55) over 13 games. Lewis, who got the nod in left field on Sunday, made seven starts in left, five at designated hitter and one in center field over that span. ... On Saturday, Lewis stole two bases in the third inning, becoming the first player to do so for the Blue Jays this season. The last player to swipe two bags in one inning for Toronto was Alex Rios on July 23 of last season. ... With a 5-4 loss in 11 innings on Saturday, the Blue Jays slipped to 12-15 in games that have been decided in the last at-bat this season. ... After Saturday's defeat, Toronto also dropped to 2-7 in games that have been decided in walk-off fashion this year. ... The Blue Jays lead the American League with 24 one-run losses this season. Toronto is 16-24 in games decided by one run. ... After two days off, designated hitter Adam Lind returned to the Blue Jays' lineup on Sunday. Lind has hit .373 (19-for-51) with three homers, five doubles and seven RBIs over his past 14 games.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.