Hill's hands-on approach sparks Blue Jays

Hill's hands-on approach sparks Blue Jays

Hill's hands-on approach sparks Blue Jays
SEATTLE -- Aaron Hill's extra time working in the batting cage with hitting coach Dwayne Murphy paid off in a big way Tuesday night.

The 29-year-old veteran spent the past week working on his mechanics and the end result against the Mariners was a quick and smooth stroke at the plate.

Hill and Colby Rasmus each recorded four RBIs, while Jose Bautista homered in a 13-7 victory in front of 23,089 fans at Safeco Field.

"The last week we've been tinkering with freeing up the hands a little bit," said Hill, whose four RBIs were a season high. "Tonight they were just a little quicker.

"The results were there, but what I'm looking for is the feel at the plate. It felt great, it felt like things just happened instead of forcing them."

Hill was held out of the Blue Jays' lineup on Saturday and Sunday. The time off was described as an opportunity for Hill to work on things with Murphy and also provide a bit of a mental break for the veteran infielder who appeared to be pressing during at-bats.

The California native made a slight adjustment, lowering his hands a little bit during his batting stance. That cut down on his loading time in the batter's box and helped speed up his reaction at the plate.

The results started to come on Monday night as Hill made a lot of hard contact, but it really became noticeable during the first inning of Tuesday night's game.

Hill capped Toronto's six-run frame against left-hander Jason Vargas with a two-run homer to left. It was his sixth home run of the season and first since July 26. Hill finished 2-for-4 with a sacrifice fly and an RBI single to up his batting average to .229.

There likely will be some ups and downs along the way, but Hill said he likes the adjustments he made in the cage with Murphy.

"When you're switching something it just takes awhile," Hill said. "It's not going to be fixed the next day. We like what we're doing right now, the work preparation and we just have to keep going, man.

"It's a tough road, especially the hole I dug myself in, but just keep going you can always do something to help win a ballgame."

Rasmus joined Hill in his productive night at the plate. The 24-year-old recorded a three-run double in the first inning and later added a sacrifice fly in the fifth to mark the third time this season he drove in at least four runs in a game.

After the game he talked about how much more comfortable he is with his new surroundings. The young outfielder has now been with the Blue Jays for three weeks since coming over in a trade from St. Louis.

"It's beautiful," Rasmus said of club's offense. "Just glad to be a part of it really, just happy to be here. I guess that's just an added bonus to be a part of this team. The situation I was in, every day I'm just happy to come to the field, happy to be here.

"My swing definitely needs some work. It's not where it needs to be. You just have to keep battling, keep grinding it out this year, look towards the offseason and next year come in and hopefully have a good year."

Vargas was pulled during the fifth inning after being charged with a season high eight runs on seven hits and four walks. He threw only 55 of 94 pitches for strikes.

"I definitely don't want to throw that many balls," Vargas said. "But the pitch to Aaron Hill was a 1-0 cutter down over the plate and he just went and got it.

"You definitely can't let that team score that many runs off you in the first inning and expect to keep your team in the ballgame."

If there was any lingering doubt about the outcome of the game it was eliminated in the sixth. Bautista sent a two-run shot off the scoreboard in left field for his Major League-leading 35th homer of the season. Bautista also drew three walks to match a career high in the lopsided victory.

Toronto's six-run first inning provided what should have been plenty of run support for left-hander Brad Mills. The 26-year-old got through the first inning unscathed, but then had things fall apart in the second.

Mills began the third by walking a batter and then surrendering back-to-back homers to Casper Wells and Miguel Olivo. For Wells, it marked the fourth consecutive game in which he hit a home run.

Toronto's starter faced more problems in the third. Mills allowed four hits and a walk en route to another three-run inning. The Arizona native didn't come back out to start the fourth and finished with a total of six runs on six hits and three walks.

It was the second consecutive start where Mills surrendered six runs in just three innings. His ERA now sits at 8.35 in 18 1/3 innings and it's currently unknown whether he will receive another start.

"As far as looking forward we just walked off the field," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said after the game. "So as far as any change to the rotation or anything like that, that's not been addressed yet or even contemplated.

"[Mills] the type of guy that has to pitch ahead in the count, has to pitch down to take advantage of his changeup. He has some deception through the strike zone, but it's not overpowering stuff and he has to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate."

Luis Perez took over for Mills in the fourth inning and proceeded to allow just one run on three hits in four innings. His only blemish occurred during the fifth on an RBI double by Kyle Seager. Perez threw 37 of 61 pitches for strikes en route to his second victory of the season.

Toronto has now won three of its past four games and improved to a perfect 10-0 when scoring at least 10 runs in a game.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.