With the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen still reeling from a Canada Day marathon, the club needed another deep outing on Sunday from their starter.
J.A. Happ delivered by pitching seven innings of one-run ball while allowing five hits and striking out a season-high 11 in a 17-1 thumping of the Cleveland Indians at Rogers Centre.
The 33-year-old retired 11 straight after allowing a first inning double to Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis.
“Today, a crucial game, we needed a good outing,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “We were pretty banged up, didn’t have a whole lot in the bullpen.”
“He’s grown into a little more of a power pitcher, made some adjustments and now he’s a really, really good pitcher.”
The win improved Happ’s season record to 11-3 — the most wins by a Toronto pitcher before the all-star break since Roy Halladay had 11 in 2008.
Happ credited his ability to locate secondary pitches on his solid performance.
“I think it was a combination: locating the fastball, it’s always where you start and throwing off-speed, off of that,” he said. “Russ (Martin) did a great job, we had some good combinations I felt like.”
The Indians (49-32) finally got to Happ in the seventh when Yan Gomes broke up the shutout with an RBI single.
It didn’t matter much as Toronto’s bats pounded the ball all afternoon. The 17 runs scored were the most by the Jays since Aug. 7, 2010 when they routed the Tampa Bay Rays 17-11.
The win also gave Toronto (45-39) a four-game series split with the Indians.
Martin got the offence started in the first by taking Corey Kluber’s 2-1 pitch over the centre-field wall for a three-run home run, his seventh homer of the season.
Ezequiel Carrera scored on an Edwin Encarnacion sac-fly in the fourth while Michael Saunders followed it up with his team-leading 23rd double of the season that knocked Kluber from the game.
Troy Tulowitzki gave the Blue Jays a 5-0 lead with Joba Chamberlain on in relief by scoring Carrera on a sac-fly.
Kluber (8-8), who had won his previous two starts, went just 3 1/3 innings, allowing five earned runs on seven hits while walking four and striking out four.
Tulowitzki added to Toronto’s lead in the sixth, taking a Tom Gorzelanny pitch into the second deck for a three-run shot — his 14th long ball of the year.
Tulowitzki finished 3 for 5 with four runs batted in and also had a special day off the field with the team handing out bobbleheads of the Blue Jays shortstop.
“It’s always special, you think about it, definitely, before you come to the field. You want to perform well on your bobblehead day,” he said. “(Kluber) fell behind, he probably didn’t have his best command. Overall, I think the lineup just kept putting good at-bats together, kind of got to him, kind of got his pitch count up real early.”
Carrera, Saunders, Martin and Josh Donaldson each delivered RBI singles in the sixth while Encarnacion scored Carrera on a ground rule double as Toronto put up a season-high eight runs in one inning.
Indians back-up catcher Chris Gimenez found himself in trouble with the heart of the Blue Jays lineup in the eighth after pitching a scoreless inning of relief in the seventh.
Donaldson and Encarnacion each doubled giving the Blue Jays a 14-1 lead. After Martin’s RBI single, Justin Smoak capped off a four-run inning with a two-run home run, his ninth of the season.
Note: Encarnacion was suspended and fined by Major League Baseball earlier Sunday for making contact with an umpire in Friday’s 2-1 loss to Cleveland, but the punishment was held in abeyance when he appealed the league’s decision.
The Canadian Press via TSN | Photo: TSN.ca
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