TORONTO (AP)—The Toronto Blue Jays got their old leadoff hitter back Friday night. Their new one kept right on rolling.
Reed Johnson returned from an absence of nearly three months and made a diving catch in the ninth inning, and Vernon Wells homered and drove in three runs to help the Blue Jays beat the Cleveland Indians 8-6 on Friday night.
Roy Halladay improved to 5-0 against Cleveland, and Wells went 2-for-4 with an intentional walk. He’s batting .354 (17-for-48) with seven homers and 15 RBIs in 11 games as Toronto’s leadoff batter.
“It came at the same time that I was making adjustments in my swing,” said Wells, who switched to a lighter bat and opened his stance when he moved to the top of the order. “It’s just coincidence it happened when I got to the 1-hole.”
Johnson began the season as Toronto’s leadoff hitter and starting left fielder but was placed on the disabled list April 12 with a herniated disk in his back that required surgery. Activated before the game, he left his feet to snare Victor Martinez’s sacrifice fly in the ninth.
“When he hit it, I thought it was going to be an easier play than it was,” Johnson said. “The ball just kept tailing away from me pretty hard. I didn’t think I was going to have to dive at first, but then I just had to make sure I got it in the big part of the mitt so I had to lay out for it.”
Wells said he won’t put up a fight if Johnson returns to the top of the order.
“It was good to see him back on the field today,” Wells said. “Anytime he’s out there, you know what kind of effort you’re going to get. He’s one of the best left fielders in the game. He’s proven that time and time again since he’s been here. It’s fun playing the outfield with him.”
Halladay (10-3) allowed five runs and nine hits over 5 2-3 innings, walking one and striking out three. He has a 3.84 ERA in 10 career appearances against the Indians, including nine starts.
“It was a grind,” Halladay said. “There was always something going on to try and stop.”
Scott Downs relieved Halladay in the sixth and pitched a scoreless inning before Casey Janssen took over and retired all four batters he faced. Accardo worked the ninth for his 11th save in 13 opportunities.
The Blue Jays erased a 1-0 deficit with a five-run second against left-hander Cliff Lee (5-5).
Gregg Zaun singled, Curtis Thigpen reached on an error and Royce Clayton walked before John McDonald hit an RBI single. Wells followed with a two-run single, Johnson sacrificed and Alex Rios hit a two-run double down the left-field line.
“It’s not acceptable for me to pitch that way,” Lee said. “I can’t go out there and give up five runs in the second inning. That’s not doing my job.”
The Indians pulled to 6-5 in the fifth thanks to an RBI grounder from Hafner and a run-scoring single by Jhonny Peralta.
“That’s when somebody’s got to stop the bleeding,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said.
Middle relief has been a sore spot for the Indians of late. Cabrera has allowed 17 earned runs in his past 17 appearances, testing Wedge’s patience.
“We need somebody to be able to pitch when it’s a tight ballgame,” Wedge said. “We’ve got to do better than that.”
Lee lost for the first time in five starts. He gave up six runs—five earned—and six hits over four innings, walking three and striking out none.
“I never really gave myself a chance to use my off-speed pitches,” Lee said. “I was getting behind and having to throw fastballs and wasn’t really locating very well.”
Blake finished with two hits and two RBIs.
Janssen lost his footing and cartwheeled off the mound while pitching to Ben Francisco in the eighth. A sheepish-looking Janssen recovered to strike out Francisco. … Stairs tripled for the first time since April 13, 2005. … The Blue Jays held a pregame ceremony to honor Frank Thomas, who became the 21st player in major league history to hit 500 home runs when he connected at Minnesota on June 28.