Web-Gems Lead Jays Past Angels

Web-Gems Lead Jays Past Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Josh Towers credited his teammates' stellar defense for his latest win. A couple of timely hits also helped. Orlando Hudson and Vernon Wells broke open a tie game with consecutive RBI singles, and were among four different Toronto players who made diving catches in the first three innings to help Towers and the Blue Jays beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 Wednesday night.

"This whole game was because of our defense. It really doesn't get better than that," Towers said after winning his fourth straight road decision. "Not being a strikeout guy, I need defense more than anything. And if I can get what these guys are giving me every day, it's an awesome feeling."

Reed Johnson set the tone by sprinting in from left field to snare Darin Erstad's blooper. Center fielder Wells then went to his left to grab a sinking liner by Maicer Izturis, right before rookie shortstop Aaron Hill raced toward left field to make a circus catch of Steve Finley's foul fly. Second baseman Hudson also left his feet to rob Orlando Cabrera of a bloop single in short right.

"We're going to play defense when it's necessary, and tonight we needed to make some plays for Josh," Wells said. "He's been dealing lately, so whenever you can help out a pitcher who's throwing the ball well, it's a plus."

The Blue Jays have won seven of their last nine games to move six games over .500 for the first time since Sept. 28, 2003, when they were 86-76. They have won their last four series against the Angels, and took five of the six meetings this season.

The Blue Jays, who finished last in the AL East last season, are just four games out in the wild-card race. One reason is their 15-8 record against the AL's three division-leaders, including an 8-3 mark against Boston.

"I think it's probably surprised everybody else," reliever Scott Schoeneweis said. "We've got the makings of a good ballclub, and we seem to play the elite teams in the American League pretty well. We've played through some adversity this year with some injuries to key players, and we've been able to stay right there."

Towers (10-9) allowed a run and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings after shutting out Baltimore on nine hits last Friday at Camden Yards. It's the first time the right-hander has won consecutive starts since May 17, when he beat Minnesota for his fourth straight.

Miguel Batista, the fourth Blue Jays pitcher, got three outs for his 23rd save in 27 attempts. Jarrod Washburn (6-7) lost his third straight decision, allowing three runs and eight hits over six innings. The left-hander is 1-6 lifetime against Toronto, and has won only once at home since beating Boston in the Angels' first game after last year's All-Star break. The Angels, whose lead over Oakland in the AL West remained at two games, loaded the bases with none out in the sixth. But Bengie Molina lined out to second and Casey Kotchman grounded into a double play.

"They definitely had the bounces go their way tonight and made some great defensive plays - and Towers made some big pitches when he had to," Washburn said. "It's good to see those guys leave town."

Toronto's Alex Rios also was robbed of a hit - by teammate Frank Menechino, who drew a leadoff walk in the fifth and was forced at second after Rios' line drive fell in front of right fielder Vladimir Guerrero.

Menechino correctly played it halfway, but inexplicably broke back toward first after the ball landed, and Guerrero threw to shortstop Cabrera for the force.

"He got caught in no-man's land," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He thought that line drive might hang up and that Guerrero might double him off first base. He broke back to first base by a couple of steps, and that's what killed him. Then he had no chance."

The Blue Jays overcame Menechino's baserunning blunder, as Hudson and Wells hit RBI singles for a 3-1 lead. Russ Adams, who entered the game in the fourth as a pinch-hitter after Hill left the game with leg cramps, added an RBI double in the eighth.

"That's one of the best games we've played as a team so far," Wells said. "Hopefully, it's a sign of things to come. It's fun. This is the first time a lot of us have been in a race this late in the season. We've got to continue to play this way if we're going to have a chance at the end of September."

Notes: Not to be outdone by Toronto's defense, third baseman Izturis started a slick around-the-horn double play with a diving grab of Gregg Zaun's hard-hit grounder toward the hole in the fourth. ... Toronto is a major league-best 43-12 when scoring first. ... The Angels hit only one home run in the six-game season series - a solo shot by Guerrero against Towers on July 27. Last year they played the Blue Jays nine times and hit nine homers.

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