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Happ gives Blue Jays the start they needed

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ works against the Boston Red Sox during first inning AL baseball action in Toronto on Tuesday, July 22, 2014.


The machinations of a Major League Baseball team over the course of a long season are never ending.

The Toronto Blue Jays, still reeling from an embarrassing drubbing 24 hours earlier, got the able start they needed from J.A. Happ on Tuesday night against the Boston Red Sox to smooth the waters somewhat.

Happ was in top form in what is rounding into a fine season for the 31-year-old, hurling six scoreless innings to help tame the Boston Red Sox 7-3 at Rogers Centre.

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"That might have been, in my opinion, his best outing of the year [for Happ] simply because he had a good curve ball going that he established," Toronto manager John Gibbons said afterward.

The victory helped distill an unsettling 14-1 loss to the Red Sox Monday night in the first game of the four-game set and improved the lefty Happ's record on the season to 8-5.

The Blue Jays (52-49) remain tied with the New York Yankees in second place in the American League East, four games back of the Baltimore Orioles after all the division front-runners posted victories on Tuesday.

On the other side of the ledger for Toronto, closer Casey Janssen continues to struggle in the ninth inning and that no doubt is now a cause of consternation for the A.L. outfit trying to claw its way back into the playoff picture.

For the second consecutive outing since the all-star break, Janssen failed to execute, entering the game in the ninth inning with the Blue Jays leading 7-1.

He would face six batters and allow a walk along with three hits, including a two-run home run shot by Stephen Drew, before Gibbons called upon Brett Cecil to get the final out of the game.

On Thursday against the Texas Rangers, Aaron Loup had to be called into the game to get the final out after Janssen allowed one run off three hits in what was a 9-6 Blue Jays victory.

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Janssen took a holiday in the Dominican during the break and came back with either food poisoning or a virus that hit him harder than a David Ortiz home run.

The normally reliable closer lost about seven pounds and was held out of at least one game because of the illness.

Janssen insists he is feeling better and after the game would not use that as an excuse for his recent struggles.

Never overpowering, Janssen relies more on guile to do the job, painting the corners of the plate with pinpoint accuracy to frustrate hitters.

That command has disappeared for the most part in his last two outings, something that Gibbons chalks up to a lack of work, nothing more.

"I thought he looked stronger [than his last outing] but you know, he's not hitting his corners and that's the name of his game," Gibbons said. "He needed to pitch tonight to get some work."

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As for Happ, he extended his streak to 25.2 consecutive innings without allowing a homer, scattering seven hits over his start while walking just one batter and striking out four.

"I think the curve ball was probably as good or better than it's been so far this year," Happ said. "I think that was a big pitch tonight."

Anthony Gose got the start in centre field with Colby Rasmus handling the designated hitter duties and he was a busy-body on the basepaths.

Gose was on base three times with a walk and two singles, including a bunt single, stole two bases and scored three times.

Gibbons said Gose, whose batting average is up to .246, is making it difficult to keep him out of the lineup.

"He helps you win ball games and I just think he's scratching the surface," Gibbons said. "His swing is starting to come along, that will take time. If he hits some day he can be a heck of a player.

"He helps you win baseball games, especially tight ball games when he can put the pressure on the other side. He's earned that right to play some games."

Rasmus struck out his first three visits to the plate before drawing a walk in his final at-bat, his average on the season now .218.

It will be interesting to see who gets the start in centre tonight.

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