Toronto (40-42) at Oakland (42-40)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Oakland, CA
Temp: 57° F
  • Game info: 10:05 pm EDT Tue Jul 3, 2007
Preview | Box Score | Recap

For the Toronto Blue Jays to be successful, Vernon Wells has to be a star player. Although that hasn’t been the case most of this season, he is showing signs of breaking out.

Wells looks to build on one of his best games of the season Tuesday night when the Blue Jays continue a three-game road series against the Oakland Athletics.

The center fielder matched a career high with four hits, including a pair of solo homers as Toronto ended a four-game skid with an 11-7 victory in Monday’s series opener.

Wells, who signed a $126 million, seven-year contract in the offseason, entered Monday with a .247 batting average.

He has, however, taken a liking to the leadoff spot, batting .371 with five homers and 11 RBIs in eight games at the top of the order, helping Toronto win six of them.

“They came in situations where I was able to get innings started,” Wells said. “That’s the biggest thing. We were able to score some runs. Hopefully we can continue to get better as an offense and be more consistent. That’s something we haven’t been able to do this year and I’m one of the big reasons why it’s been that way.”

After the Blue Jays (40-42) won five of six games with Wells leading off late last month, manager John Gibbons moved him back down in the lineup and the Blue Jays lost three straight.

The two homers Monday gave him 11 this season with 45 RBIs after 82 games. Those numbers are a long way from the 21 homers and 65 RBIs he had at this point in 2006.

The Blue Jays had struggled offensively on the 10-game road trip before putting up 16 hits Monday. They were batting .233 on the first seven games of the trip.

Frank Thomas had three hits and two RBIs in his game back in Oakland since signing as a free agent with Toronto in the offseason. Thomas got a warm ovation before striking out in the first inning. He followed that with three straight singles, driving in runs in the third and sixth.

“You put him in the middle of the lineup and he’s dangerous,” A’s manager Bob Geren said of Thomas. “He’s been dangerous for a long time.”

With A.J. Burnett going on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with pain in his right shoulder, rookie Jesse Litsch (1-2, 6.62 ERA) will make his first start since May 30 for Toronto.

Litsch made four starts for the Blue Jays in May, pitching brilliantly in his major league debut before he was reached for 12 runs and 19 hits over nine innings in his last three outings. The 22-year-old right-hander was 8-2 with a 2.24 ERA between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Syracuse.

He has never faced the Athletics.

After winning the final two games of their 10-game road trip at Yankee Stadium, Oakland (42-40) was unable to maintain its momentum Monday, losing for the eighth time in 11 contests overall.

Dan Johnson continued to swing a hot bat for the A’s with three hits, including a homer and three RBIs. He has homered in three straight and four of his last five games, and is 9-for-18 with eight RBIs in that span.

Joe Blanton (7-4, 3.24) looks to continue his run of solid outings for Oakland. The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA in his last four starts. He has allowed three runs or fewer in six consecutive outings while pitching at least six innings in seven straight appearances.

Blanton had his worst start in a month Thursday at Cleveland, yielding three runs and six hits over 6 1-3 innings before leaving without a decision.

He is 2-2 with a 4.09 ERA in five career starts against the Blue Jays.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Litsch Tor vs. J. Blanton KC
7-9 Record 14-10
3.81 ERA 3.95
50 K 140
36 BB 40
1.37 WHIP 1.22

Scoreboard

Tuesday, Jul 3