Blue Jays 11

(15-8, 7-4 away)

Pirates 5

(12-14, 7-6 home)

    1:05 PM ET, March 29, 2005

    McKechnie Field, Bradenton, Florida 

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    TOR 020230301 11 - -
    PIT 014000000 5 - -

    Toronto 11, Pittsburgh 5

    BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -- Maybe all those Auburn spring football practices showed Gabe Gross how to get himself ready for the games that count.

    Gross' three-run homer gave Toronto the lead and was his eighth this spring, while the Pirates' Craig Wilson hit his third homer in two days during the Blue Jays' 11-5 victory Tuesday.

    Gross, a former Auburn quarterback and the 15th overall pick in the June 2001 draft, is hitting .382 with 18 RBI in 20 games. Carlos Delgado (2001) is the only other player in club history with eight homers in a single spring.

    Gross' big month almost forced the Blue Jays to put him on their season-opening roster.

    "It's pretty hard for us not to take him," general manager J.P. Riccardi said. "He has done a nice job, and seeing him evolve as a ballplayer has been the fun part."

    Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon didn't have as much fun watching his staff give up 17 hits -- the seventh time in eight games his pitchers have yielded 10 or more. They also allowed seven or more runs for the 11th time in 22 games.

    Left-hander Dave Williams had his second consecutive poor start since being chosen as the No. 5 starter. He couldn't hold a four-run lead Thursday against Minnesota, then couldn't protect a 5-2 lead Tuesday, yielding 10 hits and seven runs -- five earned -- in six innings.

    McClendon was less critical of Williams than he was Thursday, saying he corrected some of the mistakes he made, even if it wasn't evident.

    "I actually thought he threw the ball well," McClendon said. "He hung a breaking ball (to Gross), but I was happy he was pitching rather than just throwing the ball."

    McClendon isn't distressed that his five starters -- Oliver Perez, Kip Wells, Mark Redman, Josh Fogg and Williams -- have an 8.08 ERA. Williams' 6.00 ERA is the second lowest of the group to Wells' 4.91.

    "I feel good about how it's shaping up," he said. "I like what I see and I feel good about where we're at."

    Mark Corey, competing with Rick White for the last spot in Pittsburgh's bullpen, hadn't allowed a run in 8 2-3 innings until yielding Ken Huckaby's two-run single and Frank Menechino's RBI double in a three-run seventh.

    Earlier, Wilson gave Pittsburgh that 5-2 lead with a three-run drive in the third off Blue Jays starter Gustavo Chacin, who allowed five runs on seven hits in four innings.

    Wilson's seven homers match Pittsburgh's unofficial spring record previously set by Aramis Ramirez (2003) and Mark Johnson (1996), not counting the 1995 replacement spring training. The Pirates' records go back only to 1986. ^Notes:@ Toronto relievers Vinnie Chulk, Matt Whiteside and Miguel Batista limited Pittsburgh to one hit over five shutout innings, retiring the final 11 batters. ... Gross returned after sitting out Monday with a stiff neck. ... Toronto was down to four coaches with hitting coach Mike Barnett (detached retina) and bullpen coach Bruce Walton (hernia) sidelined. Barnett could return Wednesday. ... Toronto LHP Ted Lilly (left shoulder tendinitis) is scheduled to throw 50 pitches for Triple-A Syracuse against Durham on Thursday. ... Blue Jays opening day starter Roy Halladay makes his final spring start Wednesday. ... Pirates 1B Daryle Ward, out for nearly a week with soreness in his left side, was 0-for-1 and played three innings defensively. ... Benito Santiago, Pittsburgh's 40-year-old catcher, boosted his average to .351 with two hits but had a throwing error that aided Toronto's two-run fourth.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press