Blue Jays 3 Rangers 1
ARLINGTON, Texas — Vernon Wells kicked off his comeback tour with a homer display in his hometown.
Wells hit his fourth homer in three games and the Toronto Blue Jays rallied for three runs in the ninth against closer Frank Francisco to beat the Texas Rangers 3-1 on Thursday.
Wells, who grew up in Arlington, is coming off a disappointing season which could be blamed in part on a nagging wrist problem. He finished with 15 homers and 66 RBIs, his fewest in each category since becoming a regular in 2002.
Wells became the first Blue Jays player to homer in each of the first three games of the season.
“He’s been awesome, absolutely great,” Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. “It’s just what we needed. You don’t expect him to hit home runs like that, but something close would be nice.”
Wells went 6-for-10 and drove in seven runs to help the Blue Jays take two of three against the team he followed as a kid.
“I guess (Wells’) wrist is well, because every pitch we made a mistake to him on, he didn’t miss it,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Rangers starter C.J. Wilson struck out nine and allowed five hits over seven innings in his return to the rotation, but Francisco (0-1) failed in his first save opportunity of the season.
Wells hit a leadoff homer to left on a 1-1 splitter from Francisco that was out over the plate.
“When you’re hitting home runs, they come in bunches,” Wells said. “It’s all a timing issue. If you keep your timing, it helps with the pitch location.”
Lyle Overbay followed with a triple, and scored the go-ahead run on Edwin Encarnacion’s sacrifice fly.
Rookie Mike McCoy added an RBI single to make it 3-1 and chase Francisco, who gave up three runs and four hits while getting only two outs.
Washington gave his closer, who wasn’t in the clubhouse after the game, a vote of confidence.
“We got what we wanted, into the ninth and to our closer, but it wasn’t his day,” Washington said. “I’m certain most of the time he’ll get it done.”
Casey Janssen (1-0) struck out the side in the eighth, and Jason Frasor got three outs for his second save in three chances.
Wilson moved into the rotation this spring after pitching out of the bullpen the last four seasons. Wilson got six starts in 2005, going 0-5 with a 12.05 ERA and an opponents’ batting average of .441.
This time, he was a lot better, escaping jams in the fifth and sixth and recording his longest career start.
Wilson has said all long that he won’t change much about his approach on the mound as he transitions from setup man to starter.
“I’ve pitched in a lot of games,” Wilson said. “So it’s nothing new. It’s just a different challenge to pitch seven innings and face hitters three times instead of once.”
Wilson and Toronto starter Ricky Romero matched six shutout innings before the Rangers broke through in the seventh when David Murphy doubled, went to third on Taylor Teagarden’s groundout, and scored on Romero’s wild pitch.
Romero allowed one run and five hits over seven innings, striking out four and walking two.
Vladimir Guerrero went 3-for-4 for Texas, making him 7-for-11 (.636) this season.
Earlier Thursday, the Rangers placed No. 1 catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the 15-day disabled list because of left upper back stiffness.
Washington said Saltalamacchia hurt his back during Monday’s season opener against Toronto, but Saltalamacchia tried to play through the discomfort.
Saltalamacchia had an MRI on Thursday and was scheduled to be examined by a back specialist later in the day to determine the severity of the injury.
Teagarden becomes the everyday catcher, and Texas purchased the contract of Matt Treanor from triple-A Oklahoma City to back up Teagarden.
About an hour before the first pitch, second baseman Aaron Hill was scratched from Toronto’s lineup with right hamstring tightness. McCoy started in place of Hill, and McCoy led off the game with a single for his first big-league hit.
Gaston said after the game that Hill shouldn’t be out for an extended stretch.