video thumbnail

BAL@TOR: Blue Jays erupt for seven runs in the sixth

TORONTO -- One of the Blue Jays' strengths this season was supposed to be a potent offense that featured power all the way through the order. Yet the club was uncharacteristically having trouble scoring runs early on in the new campaign.

Until Sunday, that is, as the Toronto bats awakened in a 9-2 win over the Orioles in the series finale at Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays sent 13 men to the plate in a seven-run sixth inning to secure the victory for starter Kyle Drabek and avoid a sweep at the hands of Baltimore.

"Everyone swung the bats well today," said Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie, who went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and connected on his first homer of the season.

"It was a good breath of fresh air. ... It was just good to put some [insurance] runs up there and finish it off."

After Jose Bautista led off the sixth with a double, Edwin Encarnacion launched a two-run homer to left off Orioles starter Brian Matusz to put Toronto ahead, 3-2.

Matusz then walked Rajai Davis to put runners on first and second before being replaced by former Toronto closer Kevin Gregg, whom the Blue Jays proceeded to tee off on.

Toronto would add five more runs in the frame, as Jeff Mathis, Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson had consecutive RBIs before Gregg hit Lawrie with the bases loaded to cap off the seven-run inning and put Toronto ahead, 8-2.

Matusz took the blame, and was upset at himself for not being able to locate better in the sixth.

"Getting ahead of Bautista and not being able to finish him off, leadoff double and then getting ahead of Encarnacion and throwing a horrible slider that he hit out [was frustrating]," said Matusz, who allowed five runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings in the loss. "I got to get that ball down and make better pitches."

Toronto, which entered the game hitting .214 as a team -- which ranked 13th in the American League -- was the only AL club that hadn't homered against a lefty until Lawrie took Matusz deep in the fourth.

Encarnacion, who has been arguably the Blue Jays' most consistent hitter, continued his hot start by going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Encarnacion's homer in the sixth, his third of the year, also marked his 11th hit -- seven of which have gone for extra bases.

"What Edwin has done right from the start of the season, really going back to the start of Spring Training, he's been a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat," manager John Farrell said. "When you look at the finish of the swing, a two-handed finish versus the top-hand release [from last year], it makes him more compact, keeps his hands closer to his body and allows him to stay inside the baseball. ... It hasn't taken away from his power."

The Blue Jays provided Drabek with a lot of offense on a day he didn't need much.

The right-hander was impressive in his second outing of the season, allowing just two runs -- one earned -- while controlling the strike zone over 7 1/3 innings of work.

Drabek limited the Orioles' ability to make solid contact due to the late-breaking action he generated on his pitches throughout the afternoon, which led to six strikeouts and only one walk.

Drabek leads the Blue Jays in wins and strikeouts, and seems to have put last season's struggles in the rear-view mirror.

"It's a tale of two people in some ways," Farrell said when comparing Drabek to last year. "He kept his composure. I thought he and Jeff Mathis worked exceptionally well together. The use of his secondary stuff, he doubled up on his changeup a number of times, doubled up on his curveball. ... A huge step forward from where he finished last year, just in his own personal maturity."

Drabek believes his ability to control the ball better, after issuing 6.29 walks per nine innings last season, is not only because of new mechanics, but also a result of dialing back on his fastball at times.

"Last year, I changed up my mechanics four or five times, and when I came to Spring Training, they found one they wanted me to try that was kind of easy," said Drabek, who left to a standing ovation. "It was hard at first, but [I'm] real happy with where it's at right now."

Drabek's only real blemish came in the sixth courtesy of Adam Jones. The center fielder launched an upper-deck, solo homer to put the Orioles ahead 2-1 and extended his hitting streak to 12 games dating back to last September. The Orioles were unable to muster anything for the rest of the game.

The Blue Jays had 10 extra-base hits and five different players had multihit games.

Toronto avoided being swept in a three-game set at home by the Orioles for the first time since 2005. It was the first time the Blue Jays have lost a series in Toronto to the Orioles since June 2008, snapping an 11-series winning streak.

MLB.com Comments