Nothing like a little long ball to soothe whatever it is that ails the Toronto Blue Jays.
When they don’t hit them, they generally lose.
And when they do, like in Sunday’s slow-to-simmer Father’s Day affair against the Chicago White Sox at Rogers Centre, the result is usually another notch in the win column.
In keeping with that successful recipe, both Russell Martin and Kendrys Morales went deep for Toronto, and backed by another solid outing from starter J.A. Happ, the Blue Jays (33-35) were able to forge a 7-3 victory over the White Sox (31-37).
It was a win the listing Blue Jays needed badly – after dropping the first two games of the weekend set – to avoid what could have been a confidence-zapping sweep at the hands of the White Sox.
“Definitely feel-good win,” Martin said afterward. “You never want to get swept at home.”
Toronto dropped the second game of the series 5-2 Saturday, where for the 16th time this season the club was not able to hit a home run. Toronto’s record in those outings is a paltry 3-13.
In games in which the Blue Jays have hit at least one home run, their record has now improved to 30-22 on the year – a .577 success rate that would have Toronto battling it out for first place over all in any division.
Instead, the Blue Jays now head out for a seven-game road trip – beginning Monday in Texas against the Rangers – mired in last place in the American League East, a spot they have all but owned all season.
Only the early competitiveness of the overall AL standing – in which seven teams, including the Blue Jays, started play on Sunday within 21/2 games of the second wild-card playoff berth – has prevented Toronto’s season from landing on the scrap heap.
“That’s kind of our DNA,” Martin said of Toronto’s power game. “We love the long ball – we’re kind of built that way. Don’t necessarily want to rely on it all the time. I feel like there’s definitely different ways we can win ball games.
“But I think [Sunday] was just Happ keeping us in the ball game. Even after giving up a couple of runs, we were able to battle back.”
The game drew almost 47,000 fans, Toronto’s seventh sellout of the season.
There was not much going on early in this affair, with the starting pitchers – Happ for the Blue Jays and James Shields for the White Sox – dominating play.
And it was Happ who bent first – in the fifth inning, after cruising through the first four allowing just three Chicago singles.
Consecutive base raps by Willy Garcia and Kevan Smith began the inning, before Yolmer Sanchez followed in kind with a hit to centre that carded the first Chicago run.
Melky Cabrera then laid down a sacrifice bunt that moved up both base runners. That strategy paid dividends when Jose Abreu singled through the left side, just out of the reach of diving Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, scoring two more runs to increase Chicago’s lead to 3-0.
Happ recovered to pitch a solid 6.2 innings, allowing three runs off eight hits while striking out nine.
It was his second win in the three starts he has made since returning to the lineup after recovering from elbow soreness. He is starting to resemble the reliable left-hander who won 20 games for Toronto a year ago.
Toronto finally got the offence rolling in its half of the fifth when Steve Pearce, just off the disabled list, singled leading off and scored from second on a hit by Kevin Pillar.
Pearce collected three of Toronto’s 13 hits in the game.
The Toronto comeback began in earnest in the three-run sixth and began innocuously enough when a dribbler off Tulowitzki’s bat hugged the third baseline and eventually rolled into the bag for a cheap two-out single.
Next up was Martin, who gave one a ride, the ball arching off the top of the wall in centre field, just inches away from the glove of Chicago defender Garcia, for his seventh home run of the year.
“I definitely barrelled it, I wasn’t sure,” Martin said. “It wasn’t a no-doubter by any means.”
With the game tied at 3-3, that was it for Shields, who gave way to Anthony Swarzak. He promptly gave up a single to Pearce, who was tripled home by Ryan Goins for the go-ahead Toronto run.
With one on in the seventh, Morales got into the act for Toronto, greeting new Chicago reliever Dan Jennings with a blast to left, his 15th home run of the season, that extended the Toronto lead to 6-3.
Pearce then concluded Toronto’s second three-run inning of the game when he doubled to left, scoring Tulowitzki.Report Typo/Error
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