Harris homers to beat Jays

Willie Harris couldn’t get a sacrifice bunt down to move the winning run into scoring position. Then he failed to execute a hit-and-run.

Rookie call up Brett Cecil threw seven strong innings for the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday

Nationals 5 Blue Jays

WASHINGTON — Willie Harris couldn’t get a sacrifice bunt down to move the winning run into scoring position. Then he failed to execute a hit-and-run.

So, when emergency reliever Scott Richmond of North Vancouver, B.C., ran the count full, Harris just wanted to drive the ball somewhere to keep the rally alive. Harris hit a two-run homer in the 12th inning and the Washington Nationals stretched their winning streak to a season-high four games by beating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 on Saturday night.

Nationals manager Manny Acta kept changing the tenor of Harris’ at-bat as it unfolded. First he called for a bunt, then tried to get Harris to shoot a ball through the infield with Alberto Gonzalez running on the pitch.

“It’s a mouse-and-cat type of game. We got all the way to 3-2 and we try to tell (Harris) to be aggressive,” Acta said.

Gonzalez led off the 12th with a single against Richmond (5-4). Harris then hit a drive into the Nationals’ right-field bullpen for his second home run of the season.

“When I got to 3-2, I was able to get a ball up in the zone and hit it out of the ballpark,” said Harris, who made a diving catch in centre to take an extra-base hit away from Raul Chavez in the fifth. Julian Tavarez (3-4) got the victory with 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

Toronto manager Cito Gaston turned to Richmond, who started and won Wednesday in Philadelphia, because he was down to rookies Dirk Hayhurst and Brad Mills in an overtaxed bullpen.

“We had a lot of guys that weren’t available tonight and we got them through the night,” Gaston said. “Of course, it would have been nicer to get them through with a win.”

Vernon Wells hit his sixth homer off Washington starter Ross Detwiler in the sixth, ending career-long homerless drought of 160 at-bats.

It wasn’t enough to prevent a two-game losing streak by the Jays, who scored 23 runs in sweeping three games from the World Series champion Phillies before arriving in D.C.

“(Washington) pitched as well as we have,” Gaston said. “They’ve just managed to outscore us. In baseball you don’t stay hot all the time.”

The Nationals went up 1-0 in the fifth. Harris hit a ground-rule double over the wall in left-centre, stole third and scored on Wil Nieves’ sacrifice fly.

Consecutive doubles by Cristian Guzman and Johnson restored the Nationals’ lead in the bottom of the sixth before Elijah Dukes’ two-out double made it 3-1.

Brett Cecil, recalled earlier in the day from triple-A Las Vegas to take the rotation spot of injured Toronto ace Roy Halladay, allowed eight hits and three runs in seven innings, walking one and striking out four.

Toronto tied it in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Jose Bautista’s single chased Detwiler, Kip Wells relieved and gave up a sacrifice bunt and a run-scoring single by Aaron Hill.

Kip Wells got Vernon Wells to pop up after a passed ball by Nieves moved Bautista up and was replaced by Joel Hanrahan, who yielded a game-tying single by Scott Rolen.

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