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Jays dominate Orioles

Jays dominate Orioles
BOXSCORE: Orioles vs. Jays , S11

In pitching seven strong innings to collect his fourth win, Blue Jays right-hander Scott Richmond continued to exceed expectations.

With a home run, a double and two runs scored to support Richmond yesterday, right fielder Alex Rios is finally living up to them.

Combined, they lifted Toronto to a 4-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, the first three-game sweep of the season for the Jays . Toronto's 18-9 record matches its best ever after 27 games.

Richmond allowed two runs on five hits, while walking two batters and striking out six.

After leaving spring training as the club's fifth starter, a combination of injuries (both Jesse Litsch and Ricky Romero remain on the disabled list) and vastly improved approach have transformed Richmond into the club's second most-reliable starter behind Roy Halladay.

Several Jays have theories to explain the change.

Manager Cito Gaston cites Richmond's improved control, plus his willingness to throw breaking balls and changeups for strikes.

Richmond himself says it's an improved attitude and team spirit, saying his confidence is "100 times better" than in spring training.

"These guys are playing so well behind us, I'm just trying to take that confidence out there and show that other team they're not going to score that many runs off me," said Richmond, now 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA. "These guys are stepping up; I want to elevate my game."

Richmond said much of his hot start this season is due to Rod Barajas, but the veteran catcher deflected the credit back to the pitcher for stabilizing an injury-plagued starting rotation.

"He's made great strides since spring training. He's pitching like a major-leaguer," Barajas said. "It's something that we desperately need and it's something that we need to keep going."

The Jays would also love to see Rios sustain his hot hitting.

A career .288 hitter, Rios has struggled early this season. He entered yesterday's game with a .255 average, but at one point in April it had dipped to .207.

Despite the April slump, Gaston said he never considered moving Rios from the No.3 spot in the batting order.

"Moving him out of that spot is not going to help him," Gaston said before yesterday's game. "I don't want him to ever think that we've given up on him. In order for us to win, he's going to have to hit."

Rios smacked a first-inning double and scored on Vernon Wells' fourth homer of the season.

Against Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie in the fifth, Rios pulled a 2-2 fastball into the seats above the Jays bullpen for his second homer of the season and his fourth hit in the past two games. That run held up as the game winner.

With his hitting on the weekend, Rios, in the second season of a seven-year, $70 million (U.S.) contract, is beginning to justify the team's investment and his manager's faith in him.

"Just give the kid a chance. He's in a good spot for us," Gaston said. "(Yesterday's game) certainly won't hurt his confidence."

mcampbell @

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 4, 2009

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