It was a series that started like it was going to leave the Toronto Blue Jays' house in complete disarray, but the Jays managed to tidy things up by the time they sent the Cleveland Indians packing. The housekeeping was completed when Toronto inflicted some damage of its own as the Blue Jays smacked the Indians around on Sunday afternoon, winning 17-1 win in front of a sellout crowd of 45,962 at Rogers Centre. That gave the Jays a split of their four-game series after losing the first two against the American League Central Division leaders. It settled some questions about the Jays' offence, particularly where it concerned shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and it also saw a solid outing from starting pitcher J.A. Happ, whose sparkling seven innings gave the bullpen a much-needed rest.
So the Blue Jays can continue their homestand Monday night against the Kansas City Royals feeling a little more comfortable than they did when the Indians hit town at the start of the holiday weekend. Toronto's bats came out of hibernation in the series' third game, on Saturday, a 9-6 comeback Toronto win, and stayed hot on Sunday, chasing Indians starter Corey Kluber in the fourth inning and then beating up on four relief pitchers, including catcher Chris Gimenez, who pitched two innings and gave up the last four runs.
Gimenez was the third position player to pitch in the series, as Toronto infielders Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins put in an inning each in Friday's 2-1 Cleveland victory (Goins ended up on the 15-day disabled list with a muscle strain in his right forearm).
"If you're looking at it from the seventh inning on from [Saturday], you're thinking, 'Okay, you lose three here, that's tough, then you're going against Kluber, possibly get swept' – I think that was going through some people's minds," Tulowitzki said. "And then we respond like we did, finish the series 2-2 and obviously have some games coming up before the [all-star] break."
Aside from Tulowitzki, who hit his second home run in as many games and drove in four runs, the best individual performer for the Blue Jays was Happ, now 11-3 with a 3.54 earned-run average. Happ shook off some recent troubles with no walks and a season-high 11 strikeouts to win his fifth consecutive game.
Most important to the Jays, though, Happ pitched seven innings and gave the bullpen a rest. Those arms were aching after the 19-inning marathon against the Indians on Friday, and because Saturday's starter, Marco Estrada, needed help after his back tightened up again, so five relievers were pressed into service. Estrada had a magnetic-resonance-imaging test on his back Sunday: No results were immediately available, but it looks as if he could miss his next start.
"Yeah, I feel like I did my job more than anything," Happ said. "These guys have been playing a lot of innings; we had quite a few games without a day off, and then we played a 19-inning game.
"These guys are tired but [still] showing up, playing defence with a lot of energy. I feel good about doing my part, but everybody else today did theirs, too."
All Happ had to worry about was trying to stay warm while his teammates were smashing the Indians pitchers around. Not only was it the Blue Jays' largest margin of victory this season, the 17 runs were a season high and the eight runs scored in the sixth inning were the most in a single inning this season.
"The biggest challenge, long innings like that, was just staying loose," Happ said. "But I'll take that problem, if you want to call it a problem."
Catcher Russell Martin hit his seventh homer of the season, a three-run shot, and finished with four hits. First baseman Justin Smoak hit his ninth home run, outfielder Michael Saunders hit two doubles and third baseman Josh Donaldson had four hits.
Tulowitzki, who has hit .347 since June 19, a day after coming off the disabled list with a right quadriceps strain, said he is happy Blue Jay fans are finally seeing him play to his all-star reputation. Since coming from the Colorado Rockies almost a year ago he has been troubled by injuries. A big outing at the plate (combined with some nifty work at shortstop) was a nice bonus since it came on Tulowitzki bobblehead day at the Rogers Centre.
"I think it was the first time I've hit a home run [on his bobblehead day]," said Tulowitzki of the "three or four" times in his career that he's had giveaway doll days.
"[Donaldson] was talking to me in the dugout, saying, 'How did you do that? I could never hit a home run on my bobblehead day,'" Tulowitzki added. "It makes it fun."
Before the game, Jays designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion was suspended for one game for bumping plate umpire Vic Carapazza on Friday. He immediately appealed the suspension and played on Sunday.