After getting royally roughed up by the visiting New York Yankees just 24 hours earlier, the Toronto Blue Jays did not quite know what to expect on Friday night, when they sent Francisco Liriano to the mound.
Liriano, like many teammates, had been on the disabled list, nursing a sore left shoulder.
He had last pitched May 10, when he was given a good working over by the Cleveland Indians, coughed up seven earned runs in two innings.
After such a long layoff, it remained to be seen how effective Liriano might be against the big bats of the American League East-leading Yankees.
Pretty effective, as it turned out.
Displaying little, if any, rust, Liriano was solid, lasting five-plus innings to help pace the Blue Jays (27-28) to a 7-5 victory over the Yankees (31-21) at Rogers Centre to square the four-game set at 1-1.
The Blue Jays received ample offensive support by Josh Donaldson as the third baseman cracked two home runs to lead the Toronto attack.
Liriano allowed two New York runs off four hits. He also struck out five.
“I thought he was really good,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said of Liriano, who collected the win with his performance. “He had a little tough patch early on when he lost the strike zone. But I thought as the outing went along he got better and better.”
For the second game in a row, catcher Russell Martin was not in the Blue Jays starting lineup, trying to work through a sore neck.
Liriano’s return marked the second Toronto starter to rejoin the team off the DL this week.
On Tuesday, J.A. Happ, a 20-game winner a year ago, returned to the lineup against the Cincinnati Reds after more than a month on the shelf with a sore left elbow.
Now the only starting straggler yet to return is Aaron Sanchez, out with a fingernail issue on his right hand. Gibbons said last season’s AL earned-run leader is likely to resume throwing next week.
Liriano’s night did not get off to a great start, but it wasn’t his doing.
Brett Gardner, the seemingly ageless New York leadoff hitter, stroked a fly ball to left-centre in the first inning that Ezequiel Carrera scurried to catch, but the ball squirted free from his glove.
Gardner found himself at third base on the error.
But Liriano extricated himself from that mess, inducing a ground-out by Gary Sanchez and then a strikeout of Aaron Judge. Matt Holliday then flew out to left and the game remained 0-0.
But not for long.
Donaldson launched his first home run of the game off Michael Pineda with one out in the bottom of the first to provide Toronto with a 1-0 lead.
And after Kendrys Morales walked, Justin Smoak continued his solid season, cranking a home run to right, his 13th of the season, to increase the lead to 3-0. Smoak drove in three runs on the night.
Liriano was also able to skirt danger in the third when he loaded the bases with one out for the ever-dangerous Holliday.
This time the defence came through when Donaldson hosed up a difficult grounder shot his way toward third.
Donaldson relayed to Devon Travis to get the force at second base and Travis’s throw to first was in the dirt ,but Smoak made a nice dig to complete a timely inning-ending double play.
Unlike the night before, when the Blue Jays could do no right in a dismal 12-2 dismantling by the Yankees, everything fell into place Friday.
The light-hitting Luke Maile started at catcher for Toronto and he began the fourth inning, with the Blue Jays leading 4-0, with a single and eventually made his way around to third with two out.
Maile ambled home with Toronto’s fifth run when Pineda unleashed a wild pitch that bounded away from Sanchez, the New York catcher.
Liriano faltered a bit in the sixth when he surrendered a two-run home run to Judge, who stroked his major-league-leading 18th dinger to right.
And when Starlin Castro followed suit with a two-run bomb off Danny Barnes, the new Toronto pitcher, the Blue Jays’ lead was down to 5-4.
Donaldson hit another homer in the sixth but New York kept pace with a run-scoring double by Holliday in the seventh.
Toronto’s two-run lead was restored in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Travis.
Roberto Osuna came on in the ninth to face the top of the Yankee order and retired Gardner, Sanchez and Judge in order for his 12th save.Report Typo/Error
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