The Canadian Press
TORONTO–On a day when the Blue Jays’ bullpen needed a break, J.A. Happ tossed seven innings, allowing just two earned runs, as Toronto snapped a four-game skid with a 7-2 win over the Texas Rangers.
Yangervis Solarte, Teoscar Hernandez, and Kevin Pillar each hit solo home runs as the Jays avoided a sweep at the hands of the Rangers.
“I take pride in that and trying to do that over the last couple years,” Happ said of giving the bullpen a day off.
“You’re definitely aware of kind of where we’re at with the bullpen–a little bit thin there. . . .
“Obviously, you want quick outs whenever you can, but you can’t really change the game plan too much to accommodate for that,” he added.
Happ (4-1) surrendered five hits while striking out nine.
The left-hander now has back-to-back starts with nine-plus strikeouts and no walks–the only other Jays’ pitcher to accomplish that feat was Roger Clemens.
“I’m just trying to change speeds when I need to and trying not to let them see the same pitch too many times in a row, trying to change it up on them,” noted Happ.
“I think me being aggressive, getting strike one, is usually a good thing for me.”
Ryan Tepera and Aaron Loup each pitched a scoreless inning of relief.
The loss halted the Rangers’ season-high three-game win streak.
Randal Grichuk showed off his defensive prowess in the first inning, diving and cradling the ball between his body and glove to rob Isiah Kiner-Falefa of extra bases and then doubled up Delino DeShields at second for the inning-ending double play.
The Jays’ right-fielder then contributed offensively, scoring Pillar from third on a sacrifice fly in the second to give Toronto a 2-1 lead.
Grichuk, who entered yesterday’s game mired in a 0-for-18 slump, went 2-for-3 at the plate.
Pillar is no stranger to making highlight-reel catches but feels he’s perfected the art of the dive.
“Mine are much more graceful,” he joked.
“It’s exciting to see,” Pillar added. “He [Grichuk] hasn’t been playing much lately, been struggling with the bat, and to come out there and make a big play in the first inning, its huge for him, it’s huge for our team.
“It got us out of a jam early.
“When you’re struggling with the bat, you’ve got to separate the bat from playing defence, go out there, make plays, and help your pitchers out, and he ended up having a good day at the plate, too.”
Hernandez took Martin Perez’s 0-1 pitch over the wall in right for his fourth homer of the season in the third before Pillar led off the next inning with a solo shot, his fourth, giving Toronto a 4-1 lead.
Perez (2-3) went four innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits while striking out two and walking four.
The Rangers (11-18) got to within two in the sixth when Kiner-Falefa’s ground-out scored DeShields from third, but that’s as close as they would get.
Russell Martin restored the Blue Jays’ three-run lead in the bottom half, reaching on an error and then he later scored.
Toronto added to its lead in the seventh as Justin Smoak scored on a sac fly before Solarte delivered an RBI single giving Toronto a 7-2 cushion.
Renato Nunez got Texas on the board in the second inning, putting Happ’s first pitch into the second deck for his first home run of the season.
Solarte responded for the Jays in the bottom half of the inning, taking Perez’s change-up deep for his seventh homer of the season.
Elsewhere in the AL, Boston edged Tampa Bay 4-3, Baltimore beat Detroit 5-3, New York nipped L.A. 2-1, Seattle dumped Cleveland 10-4, Houston doubled Oakland 8-4, and Kansas City topped Chicago 5-4.
Over in the NL, Miami beat Colorado 3-0, Atlanta pounded Philadelphia 10-1, Pittsburgh blanked St. Louis 5-0, Washington downed Arizona 3-1, Chicago shaded Milwaukee 2-0, New York bombed San Diego 14-2, and San Francisco doubled L.A. 4-2.
Cincinnati beat Minnesota 8-2 in interleague play.