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Rios rips game-winning hit to lift Blue Jays past Indians

Jul 8, 2007 - 9:58 PM TORONTO (Ticker) -- All-Star Alex Rios helped the Toronto Blue Jays enter the All-Star break on a high note.

Rios ripped a single with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to plate Reed Johnson with the winning run and propel the Blue Jays to a 1-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

Toronto's lone representative in this year's Midsummer Classic, Rios has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season for the Blue Jays. The 26-year-old outfielder leads the team in average (.294), home runs (17), RBI (53), runs (62) and stolen bases (nine).

After Vernon Wells led off the ninth by flying out to the warning track in left field, Johnson laced a double down the right field line to chase Indians starter Paul Byrd (7-4).

That set the stage for Rios, who lined righthander Rafael Betancourt's 1-1 offering past shortstop Jhonny Peralta and into center field.

"I got a good pitch to hit," Rios said. "When you've got a good runner on second that can score on any hit, you just try and have a good at-bat."

The speedy Johnson scored easily from second base, lifting Toronto to its third win in the last four games and prompting a raucous celebration at Rogers Centre.

"We got that big hit by Rios," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That's why he's an All-Star."

Toronto closer Jeremy Accardo (2-3) recorded the final two outs in the top of the frame to notch the win.

The Blue Jays nearly squandered a brilliant outing by starter Josh Towers, who carried a perfect game into the sixth. The righthander worked eight-plus innings, yielding three hits with no walks and four strikeouts.

"He's on a little bit of a roll right now," Gibbons said. "The last three starts have been very good."

Josh Barfield broke up Tower's no-hit bid with a two-out liner in the sixth the outstretched glove of third baseman John McDonald.

"I just know that I feel pretty good with the way I slung the ball," Towers said. "I know the ball was coming out pretty good, but I was just concentrating on putting up zeros."

Byrd was nearly as impressive as Towers, allowing only one run and four hits in 8 1/3 frames. The veteran righthander struck out two without walking a batter.

"I loved it," said Byrd, who took the loss despite delivering his longest outing of the season. "I like the old-fashioned pitcher's duel. The games changed to a more of an offensive-minded set, but I like the chess match."

Cleveland had a chance to give Byrd a win in the ninth, placing runners at first and second with one out thanks to a leadoff single by Barfield and an error by first baseman Matt Stairs on Casey Blake's grounder.

But Accardo beared down from there, striking out All-Star Victor Martinez and walking Travis Hafner before striking out Peralta to end the threat and preserve the scoreless tie.

"I fell behind, 2-0, and then tried to be too cute with a pitch, and then had to challenge him with three heaters," Accardo said. "It was the most energy I've had in a long time pitching on the mound."

Hafner singled in the seventh, extending his hitting streak to 10 games.