Blue Jays' Wells picks up game at plate
Ailing centre-fielder expected to return to lineup against Indians
Manager Cito Gaston is hoping he can soon count on Vernon Wells as the Toronto Blue Jays search for a way to get back in the American League wild-card race.
Yes, the same disappointing Wells who has hit .263 in 90 games this season with just nine home runs and 38 runs batted in.
The picture looks much better when you glance at the veteran centre-fielder's numbers against left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee, who draws the assignment for the visiting Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night in the opener of a three-game series at 7:07 p.m. ET.
Wells, who is expected to return to the lineup after missing the previous three games with a stomach ailment, is a career .286 hitter against Lee with two home runs and six RBIs in 14 at-bats.
Given that kind of production, perhaps Gaston will move Wells up the batting order after he was moved recently from his customary spot as the Blue Jays' cleanup hitter.
In his past 10 outings, Wells has averaged .372 with a pair of dingers.
But he isn't the only Toronto player with a successful track record against Lee, who won 22 games a year ago on the way to be named the AL's top hurler.
Rios wielding hot bat
Right-fielder Alex Rios, who like Wells has underperformed this season with a .264 average and 10 homers in 90 games, has batted .286 in 21 lifetime at-bats versus the Indians southpaw.
He has looked good of late as well, hitting safely in seven of his last 10 starts, going 10 for 39.
Blue Jays leadoff man and shortstop Marco Scutaro carries a .353 mark against Lee into Tuesday's matchup while Kevin Millar, who will start at first base in place of the left-handed hitting Lyle Overbay, is 4-for-11 (.363) when facing Lee.
The Indians pitcher arrives in Toronto with a 1-4 mark and 4.37 earned-run average in eight starts against the Blue Jays, who are 9½ games behind wild card leaders New York with a 46-47 record.
Lee, who is 5-9 this season with a 3.31 ERA over 20 starts, posted his first victory in six appearances last Thursday. Possessing great command, Lee relied on great defence and limited the Seattle Mariners to one run on nine hits for his second complete-game win of the season.
In Sunday's series finale, Cleveland struck out 12 times and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and fell to 36-57, last in the AL Central Division.
"Offensively, I still believe in these guys," Indians manager Eric Wedge said.
Cecil coming off solid effort
Brett Cecil (3-1, 5.40 ERA) will face Cleveland's punchless offence Tuesday. The rookie left-hander pitched six innings against Baltimore on July 10, allowing four hits while striking out five in a 2-0 victory.
He made his major league debut against the Indians on May 5 and didn't receive a decision after allowing two runs over six innings of a 10-6 win.
Toronto will be looking for a third consecutive win for the first time in a month after taking two of three games from Boston over the weekend.
The Blue Jays, 18-9 against teams from the Central, have won three of five against the Indians, owners of the worst record in the AL.
Left-fielder Adam Lind, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games in Sunday's 3-1 decision against the Red Sox, is 10 for 22 (.455) with three doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs against Cleveland.
Catcher Rod Barajas's second-inning double snapped an 0-for-20 slide. It also marked the 23rd consecutive game in which Toronto has hit at least one double.
With files from The Associated Press