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Toronto Blue Jays' Aaron Hill is tagged out by Oakland Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki in the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 2, 2009, in Oakland, Calif. Hill was attempting to score on a base hit by Vernon Wells. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Toronto Blue Jays' Aaron Hill is tagged out by Oakland Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki in the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 2, 2009, in Oakland, Calif. Hill was attempting to score on a base hit by Vernon Wells. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

A tale of two MLB infielders Add to ...

Last season Dustin Pedroia hit .326 with 83 runs-batted-in and 17 home runs while playing a pretty decent second base for the Boston Red Sox.

And for that Pedroia was chosen the winner of the American League's most-valuable-player award.

This season Aaron Hill - who also happens to play a pretty decent second base for the Toronto Blue Jays - is hitting .291 with 26 home runs and 76 RBI with roughly one third of the regular season still left to play.

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The big difference with that comparison is that Pedroia played on a team that made a solid run into the playoffs, a possibility that remains a pipe dream for the Blue Jays, who will be lucky to finish the season with a .500 record.

Hill continues to play like the Jays MVP this season, yesterday knocking his second home run in as many days, a two-run shot in the first inning that helped Toronto (51-54) bury the Oakland Athletics (44-60) 7-2 to wrap up the weekend series at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Combined with a 6-5 victory here on Saturday, the Blue Jays were able to depart with a 2-1 series victory to conclude their West Coast road trip with a 3-3 record.

The Blue Jays came into Oakland having lost five of their last five road series.

"I tell you it's been a while," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said about Toronto's first road trip series win since they won three in a row in Philadelphia from June 16-18.

The Blue Jays return home to begin a two-game home stand against the New York Yankees that will begin Tuesday night at Rogers Centre.

Hill's solid season is even more impressive when you consider he missed the last four months of last year after suffering a severe concussion and his return was in doubt.

The power numbers he has put up are remarkable. Prior to this season the most home runs he has hit in a season was 17 back in 2007.

And it has him occupying territory reserved for some of the game's heavy swingers.

Canadian Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins leads the A.L. in home runs with 28 while Hill's 26 has pulled him into a second-place tie with Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees and Carlos Pena of the Tampa Bay Rays.

"Don't put me in that category," Hill said with a smirk after Saturday's game when reminded of the company he is now keeping. "Those guys are proven home run hitters. I'm just getting lucky."

Lucky or not, there's no doubt Hill, who was chosen to his first all-star game this season, would be garnering some MVP support if the Jays were still in the A.L. playoff hunt.

"I think it's the hard work he's put in," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said of Hill's break-out season. "It's certainly not luck to me.

"He's the type of kid, he's not going to take a lot of credit for himself. He's done a great job. Through hard work he's just made himself better."

With Hill's home run setting the pace, the Blue Jays jumped on Oakland starter Vin Mazzaro for five runs before the first out was recorded in the first inning.

Alex Rios accounted for the other three Toronto runs when he doubled to left-centre with the bases loaded.

The other hit of note for the Blue Jays was a solo home run shot by Rod Barajas in the fifth that brought the score to 7-2.

John McDonald, getting the start at shortstop for Toronto, made a dazzling defensive play in the home half of the first inning when he dove behind the bag at second base to take away a hit from Kurt Suzuki.

McDonald then flipped the ball from his glove to Hill to force the lead Oakland runner and the throw to first was in time to get Suzuki for the inning-ending double play.

It all made for a pleasant and relatively stress-free afternoon for Ricky Romero, the Blue Jays rookie pitcher who allowed both Oakland runs off eight hits over seven innings for the win to improve to 10-4.

Romero's earned-run-average on the year is now 3.53.

Romero's parents travelled from Los Angeles to take in the weekend series along with Gabriel, Romero's 16-year-old younger brother.

Along with his prowess at the buffet table, Gabriel also impressed the Blue Jays with his work as their bat-boy for yesterday's game.

"He had a blast," Romero said.

And while Hill might not receive much consideration for league MVP honors, Romero has certainly put himself squarely in the race for rookie of the year.

Tampa Bay's Jeff Neimann, who is 10-5 with a 3.62 ERA, is enjoying a solid rookie season for the Rays while Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers, who is hitting .261 with 19 runs-batted-in, might also get some support.

"He certainly has a chance," Gaston said of his pitcher. "That would be nice to see."

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