Kelly Johnson stroked the ball into the gap in right-centre leading off Monday night’s game against the Baltimore Orioles -- a double that wasn’t exactly what the doctor ordered.
The Toronto Blue Jays second baseman has missed the last two games with a strained left hamstring, and he didn’t exactly look like Rajai Davis churning into second base.
Vladimir Guerrero more came to mind as Johnson stiff-legged it safely into the bag.
Then, when Colby Rasmus hit a grounder into right field, Johnson had to suck it up once again to score the game’s first run.
These are trying times for the Blue Jays, having just returned from an arduous 1-5 road trip where they got trashed in Tampa Bay by the Rays before getting mashed by the Rangers in Texas.
Johnson wasn’t going to let a sore leg get in the way of trying to help his team discover the winning groove, and the Blue Jays (25-24) responded, snapping a five-game losing skid with a 6-2 victory over the Orioles (29-20).
Johnson, whose ground out in the second inning made the score 2-0, had it all figured out by the time the fourth inning rolled around.
No need to exert any undue stress on the legs when you can knock the ball out of the yard -- which is exactly what Johnson did when he launched his ninth of the season, a two-run shot, that brought the score to 6-0.
Johnson doubled again in the sixth, to cap a productive 3-for-4 evening against the Orioles, who have enjoyed the view for most of the season atop the American League East.
Obviously Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie had it correct when he Tweeted several hours before the game: “Dorthy (sic) said it best .. There's no place like home.”
Afterward, Toronto manager John Farrell lauded Johnson for having a high pain threshold, something the second baseman said he is willing to put up with as long as the team is successful.
“If it is going to hurt while I’m running bases then I hope it hurts all game long,” Johnson said. “We’re done trying to be 100 per cent. Everybody’s playing with something. At 88 or 85 per cent, that’s good enough.”
With the Boston Red Sox defeating the Detroit Tigers 7-4 earlier in the day, the Blue Jays headed into the even affair tied for last place with Boston in the uber-competitive A.L. East.
A loss for Toronto and last place would be their own, quite a sudden fall for a team that was two games out of first back on May 10.
“I wouldn’t call it a crisis,” Farrell said before the game on the current state of affairs. “We’ve come off a tough road trip. I think the effort that we continually show every night, even though the outcome might not be what we would desire or like, there is never a question with our effort or our intent.”
Blue Jays pitching, after a rock-solid start to the season, had suddenly turned into the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, issuing 31 walks during the six-game road trip.
With their bullpen in a bit of disarray thanks to the recent struggles of the starting staff, the Blue Jays made a roster move before the game, recalling left-handed pitcher Aaron Laffey from their Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas.
Laffey will be used in long relief situations if needed.
To make room on the roster for Laffey the Blue Jays optioned pitcher Chad Beck back to Las Vegas.
Yunel Escobar sat out the game with a groin injury that is not considered serious with Omar Vizquel getting the start in his place at shortstop.
Edwin Encarnacion also got into the act, launching his team-leading 16th homer of the season , a two-run shot in the third.
Perhaps most importantly, the Blue Jays got a decent outing from one of their starters.
Rookie Drew Hutchison (4-2) went seven shutout innings, restricting the Orioles to just three hits while striking out a career-high nine batters.
And Hutchison displayed some power that has not been seen before with his fastball consistently hitting 95 miles an hour.
“I just didn’t kind of worry about, I won’t say worry about throwing strikes, but I just kind of let it go you could say,” Hutchison said.
Vizquel’s single in the fifth inning was his 2,848th career hit, tying him with former Orioles great Brooks Robinson on Major League Baseball’s all-time hit list.
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