TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays’ power numbers have been impressive during their seven-game winning streak that has taken them to the top of the American League East standings.
They’re also doing the little things right and it paid off in a 10-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.
Bunt singles, hustle plays, slick defence, outfield assists — the Blue Jays are doing it all while keeping the long ball in their arsenal. Edwin Encarnacion, Steve Tolleson and Dioner Navarro hit solo homers and Toronto (30-22) pounded out 16 hits in the opener of a three-game series on a muggy night at Rogers Centre.
“They just put the heavy gloves on and beat us up tonight,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon.
The Blue Jays jumped out to a 2-0 lead after opening with five straight hits on Canadian starter Erik Bedard (2-3). Tampa Bay (23-29) did some damage against Toronto starter Drew Hutchison (4-3) but could never move into the lead.
Every time the Rays scored, the Blue Jays were quick to answer.
When Tampa Bay tied the game in the third inning, Navarro and Tolleson responded with back-to-back homers in the fourth.
When the Rays pulled even again in the fifth, Toronto put four more runs on the board in the bottom half before Encarnacion added an insurance run with a solo shot in the sixth inning.
With the win, Toronto remained two games ahead of second-place New York in the A.L. East. The Yankees defeated St. Louis 6-4 in 12 innings.
The Blue Jays have won seven of their last eight home games and 12 of their last 14 games overall.
“When things are going good, they’re going good,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons.
It was Encarnacion’s 13th homer this month, breaking Jose Bautista’s club record for home runs in the month of May that was set in 2010. Melky Cabrera chipped in with three hits, while Brett Lawrie of Langley, B.C., Navarro and Kevin Pillar added two hits apiece.
“It was just not enough,” Maddon said. “They kept adding on. They have such a good lineup and when the bottom (of the order) contributes like they did today, it makes it even more difficult.”
The Blue Jays showed their mix of skill and power in the first inning. A bunt single, double and three straight singles got the crowd of 15,616 into the game early.
David DeJesus hit a solo shot for Tampa Bay in the third and James Loney later drove in Evan Longoria with a sacrifice fly. The Rays loaded the bases but Tolleson showed his range at second base by cutting off a sharp grounder by Cole Figueroa and making an off-balance throw to first for the third out.
Toronto responded in the fourth inning by hitting back-to-back homers for the third time this season. The Blue Jays also used a little small ball to push another run across.
Pillar reached on an infield single and moved to second when Anthony Gose dropped down a nice sacrifice bunt. Reyes moved Pillar to third on a grounder to the right side of the infield and Cabrera drove him in with a single.
In the fifth, Tampa Bay’s Matt Joyce hit a one-out double and cleanup hitter Desmond Jennings followed with his fifth homer of the season. Loney tied the game with a solo shot — the first time the Rays have hit back-to-back homers this year.
Toronto responded with four runs in the bottom half of the frame. Encarnacion and Lawrie hit back-to-back doubles and Navarro added an RBI single to make it 7-5, knocking Bedard out of the game.
Alex Colome came on in relief and didn’t fare much better.
He walked pinch-hitter Juan Francisco and got Pillar to fly out before being burned by the speedy Gose, who out-hustled Colome to the bag on a slow chopper to the right side. Reyes drew a bases-loaded walk and Cabrera drove in Francisco with a sacrifice fly.
Encarnacion led off the Toronto half of the sixth by turning on a 2-2 pitch from Colome. Entering the game, the Toronto slugger led the major leagues in homers in May, was tied for first with 17 extra-base hits and was second with 25 RBIs.
Cabrera and Gose each chipped in with an outfield assist. Pillar also showed off his defensive skill in right field by making a nice sliding catch at the warning track to prevent Longoria from driving in a couple of runs.
Hutchison allowed seven hits, five earned runs and four walks. Bedard, from Navan, Ont., gave up 12 hits, seven earned runs and struck out a pair.
Notes: The game took two hours 58 minutes to play. … Bautista owns the club record for most homers in a month with 14 in June 2012. … Toronto leads the major leagues with 55 homers. The Blue Jays have gone deep in nine straight games. … Toronto left-hander Mark Buehrle (8-1) is scheduled to start Tuesday night against right-hander Alex Cobb (1-0). … The Blue Jays will close out their 10-game homestand later this week with a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals. … For Tampa Bay, it was the first game of a nine-day, eight-game road swing that will continue with stops in Boston and Miami.
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© 2014 The Canadian Press