TORONTO — Russell Martin’s bat continues to heat up, even as the summer starts to cool down.
The Canadian catcher had three hits and drove in two runs on Tuesday night as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Los Angeles Angels 7-2.
“He’s smoking hot right now,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “He was due for that, he’s such a good hitter, he’s been his whole career. He’s feeling really good right now, seeing the ball.”
Martin, who was slotted into the lineup as the designated hitter with R.A. Dickey on the mound and Josh Thole catching, is batting .469 with 13 runs-batted in over his last eight games.
Having a veteran like the 33-year-old Martin hit well is something his teammates certainly like to see. Third baseman Josh Donaldson playfully fanned Martin down with a towel when he arrived back in the dugout after scoring in the fifth inning.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for that guy to break out,” second baseman Darwin Barney said. “He kind of quietly started raking a couple months ago. It’s fun to watch him up there. I think he’s seeing the ball well and staying in his lane.
“This lineup just gets deeper when different guys get hot. It really helps us out, it’s fun.”
Michael Saunders added to the offence by launching a solo shot that landed in the second deck of the right-field bleachers in the eighth inning for his 21st home run of the season. Barney had two hits, including a double, and scored twice for the Jays (71-54) while Melvin Upton Jr., Troy Tulowitzki and Thole also drove in runs.
Dickey went 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out two and walking two. His lone blemish came in the second inning when he gave up a two-run home run to Nick Buss — his first MLB homer.
It broke a streak of three-straight starts that Dickey hadn’t allowed a home run. Entering the game, Dickey had given up 112 home runs, the most in the MLB since 2013, and his 27 long balls allowed this year ranks him tied for fifth in the majors.
The Blue Jays were able to give their starter plenty of offence after the second inning shot by Buss and the knuckleballer appreciated it.
“You can take some little risks that you might not normally take and I did that tonight,” Dickey said of pitching with the lead. “Threw a lot of good changeups tonight, good sinkers down in the zone. I actually had good conventional stuff tonight and that helped me through some innings when I didn’t have a great knuckleball.”
Tyler Skaggs took the loss for the Angels (52-73), going four innings, allowing four runs on four hits while walking five and striking out two. He’s now given up 19 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings through three August starts.
Centre-fielder Kevin Pillar returned from the disabled list prior to the game and received a warm, loud applause from the 46,696 in attendance at Rogers Centre. He gave fans something to cheer about in the fourth, doubling down the third-base line and later scoring after a Thole sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.
Barney took the place of Devon Travis in the Toronto lineup after Travis had a ligament issue in his right knuckle flare up on him. Gibbons says that Travis received a cortisone shot and is day-to-day.
The Blue Jays stayed tied with the Red Sox for first place in the American League East Division after Boston edged the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 Tuesday night.
Notes: Slugger Jose Bautista is expected to return from the DL on Thursday. … Marco Estrada (7-5, 3.20 ERA) is due to start Wednesday night for Toronto. Matt Shoemaker (7-13, 4.14 ERA) is the probable starter for Los Angeles.
Ryan McKenna via TSN | Photo: TSN
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