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The Globe and Mail

Jays’ pitchers assert themselves in June

Toronto Blue Jays Josh Johnson works against Baltimore Orioles during fourth inning AL action in Toronto on Sunday June 23, 2013.


Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Josh Johnson joined the party by recording his first win this season to cap the three-game sweep against the Baltimore Orioles Sunday.

The Blue Jays' pitching, ranked near the bottom of the table in multiple statistical categories through the first two months of the season, led both leagues in June with a 2.21 ERA, entering Sunday's games. The staff as a whole had allowed two runs or fewer in eight of nine contests before Sunday's 13-5 victory over the Orioles.

The starting rotation compiled a 2.25 ERA during consecutive sweeps over the Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies and Orioles.

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Johnson (1-2) missed April 21 to June 4 with triceps inflammation. On Sunday, his fourth start since coming off the disabled list, he escaped a jam in the first inning by walking Chris Davis (27 homers, 70 RBIs) intentionally to load the bases, before inducing Matt Wieters to pop out.

The Jays led 9-0 when he gave up a pair of runs in the sixth inning on a double and a fielding error. He allowed four runs on seven hits before being lifted in the seventh.

"If I can get out of the first, things usually go pretty well," said Johnson, who was more keen to talk about the club's 11-game winning streak. "I get a little amped up, maybe too amped up. I've been trying to figure that out for a long time."

The Orioles lead the majors in home runs, and are fourth for runs scored and fifth for batting average. The Blue Jays outscored them 24-13 in the three-game sweep as the pitching staff held the batting order to a .242 average.

"Top to bottom, that's the top home run-hitting team in the league, the way I look at it," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said about the Orioles. "It's not an easy lineup to face. This was another good outing for [Johnson] and to get on the board [with a win], to get something to show for it, makes you feel good."

When Darren Oliver gave up a game-tying home run on Saturday to Taylor Teagarden, the run snapped the bullpen's streak of 27 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run. That streak was just one-third of an inning shy of a club record set in 1989, a playoff season.

Including the three innings turned in Sunday in relief of Johnson, the bullpen has allowed seven earned runs in the last 79 innings pitched, for a 0.83 ERA. Left-hander Brett Cecil is leading the way with 19 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, during which he's retired 50 of 55 batters, allowing two singles and three walks.

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