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Confidence builds for Blue Jays

Confidence builds for Blue Jays
Saturday night, White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez blasted the grand slam that buried the Blue Jays in a 10-2 loss and yesterday he stepped to the plate with two out in the ninth and his team trailing by one.

Facing Jays lefty Scott Downs with a runner on, Ramirez lifted another fly ball to left field, but this one was no game-breaker. Instead, it fluttered downward and landed in Travis Snider's mitt, closing out the Jays' clinching victory in the three-game weekend series and sealing yet another milestone victory for the American League East leaders.

By rebounding from Saturday's blowout with a 4-3 win yesterday, the Jays remain the only team in the majors that hasn't lost two consecutive games this season. In taking two of three from the White Sox, the Jays became the first team in franchise history to win six series of three games or more to open a season.

While the Blue Jays' early momentum has contradicted observers who thought this season would serve simply as a 162-game prelude to 2010, second baseman Aaron Hill said no one in the Jays locker room finds the team's success surprising.

quot;We've always had a great team; it's just the last couple of years we haven't put the hitting and pitching together at one time,quot; Hill said. quot;Everything just seems to be working right now.quot;

Roy Halladay, long-time ace of the pitching staff, is grateful for the club's resurgent offence. He has never received much run support at U.S. Cellular Field, previously going winless in five career starts there despite a 3.82 ERA.

And even though they didn't match Friday's 14-run fireworks display, the Jays provided just enough offence to support their top starter.

quot;It comes down to scoring runs when you have to,quot; said Halladay, who earned his fourth win of the season. quot;There were games last year when we'd give up just enough to lose and could never make it up. That's the difference. When the pressure's on, when we need that run or two we've been able to get it.quot;

Centre fielder Vernon Wells responded in a pressure situation, batting in the eighth inning of a 3-3 tie and stroking a double off reliever Scott Linebrink. He scored the winning run on Scott Rolen's single.

Halladay allowed eight hits and three runs over seven innings and said that a month into the season he's still gaining command over certain pitches.

quot;When I've missed, I've missed up (in the strike zone). I'd rather miss down than miss up,quot; he said. quot;It's something you work on in the bullpen (sessions) and it's got to be a constant focus. ... I just have to work on working down with everything.quot;

The Jays scored twice off Jose Contreras in the first inning. The 37-year-old former White Sox ace has struggled all season and entered the game winless in three decisions with an 8.06 ERA, but as he settled down the Jays' offence dried up.

From the second inning through the seventh, Contreras was touched for only one more run. While he needed 20 pitches to retire the Jays in the first inning, he recorded three outs in the fifth on only five pitches. And even with Rod Barajas' single, Contreras needed only eight pitches to finish the sixth.

mcampbell @

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 27, 2009

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