Blue Jays avoid sweep with win over M’s

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - MELISSA COUTO

J.A. Happ came close to un­rav­el­ling early in Toronto’s 2-0 base­ball vic­tory over the Seat­tle Mariners on Sun­day.

A key strike­out of Nel­son Cruz in the fourth in­ning turned things around, and the Blue Jays left-han­der went on to earn his sev­enth straight win.

Happ be­gan the fourth with a walk and a hit bats­man be­fore fall­ing be­hind 2-0 to Cruz. Two straight four-seam fast­balls evened the count 2-2, an­other four-seamer got Cruz swing­ing on 3-2 count, and Happ fol­lowed that with a sec­ond strike­out and pop up to end the in­ning.

“That’s kind of my best pitch so I tried to use that and get ahead with that,” Happ said of the at-bat. “When you’re not hit­ting on your other stuff you have to rely on that … I was just try­ing to re­ally lo­cate there and mix it up with the changeup and I think that helped.”

Happ (13-3) notched a ca­reer­high in wins while walk­ing four and strik­ing out six through six in­nings of one-hit ball as the Blue Jays avoided a three-game sweep.

He started the game with a 12pitch first in­ning, but started to show some trou­ble with com­mand over the next three, walk­ing the lead­off bat­ter in each of the sec­ond, third and fourth in­nings be­fore hit­ting Robinson Cano to set up the cru­cial Cruz at-bat.

“A cou­ple of big strike­outs and I think that set the tone, es­pe­cially for him,” said Josh Thole, who started his third straight game be­hind the plate in place of an in­jured Rus­sell Martin. “I know his pitch count got up a lit­tle, but that was the in­ning that got him right where he needed to be.”

Ed­win En­car­na­cion hit his 224th home run in a Blue Jays uni­form in the fourth in­ning to pass Ver­non Wells for third place on the fran­chise’s all-time list and Thole scored the other run for Toronto (55-44) on a dou­ble play in the sixth.

Brett Ce­cil worked around a one­out walk for a score­less sev­enth, Ja­son Grilli pitched a per­fect eighth, and Roberto Osuna earned his 20th save with a clean ninth.

The dom­i­nant pitch­ing per­for­mance was needed fol­low­ing a 14-5 loss to Seat­tle on Satur­day.

“It makes it easy on me,” Thole said. “We were in a re­ally good rhythm the whole game. Up and down, the guys came in with a game plan ready to go and it was a big win, es­pe­cially af­ter yesterday.”

“You look at what hap­pened yesterday, that’s the beauty of base­ball,” added man­ager John Gib­bons. “You can turn around and throw a one-hit shutout.”

Wade Mi­ley (6-8) al­lowed two runs on four hits and two walks while strik­ing out four through six in­nings to shoul­der the loss for the Mariners (50-48), who had won the first two games of the three-game week­end se­ries at Rogers Cen­tre.

“I felt like I wasn’t quite as sharp as in my last out­ing, but I was able to make some pitches and get out of most of the jams,” Mi­ley said.

Thole led off the sixth in­ning with a dou­ble and ad­vanced to third on a fielder’s choice, slid­ing un­der the tag of Mariners third base­man Kyle Sea­ger. Seat­tle chal­lenged the um­pire’s safe call and it was up­held af­ter a one minute 24 sec­ond re­view.

Thole later scored from third to give Toronto a 2-0 lead when Josh Don­ald­son hit into a dou­ble play.

Dar­win Bar­ney made a nice de­fen­sive play at third base in the eighth, div­ing and snag­ging a line drive to rob Norichika Aoki of a dou­ble.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Gib­bons said of Bar­ney. “That div­ing catch can go un­no­ticed, but who knows what hap­pens af­ter that? The guy gets a dou­ble and who knows.” NOTES: At­ten­dance was 47,488 … En­car­na­cion has 27 home runs and leads the ma­jors with 87 RBIs … Carlos Del­gado tops the Blue Jays home run leader­board with 336, Jose Bautista is sec­ond at 255 … Toronto des­ig­nated re­liever Drew Storen for as­sign­ment be­fore the game and re­called re­liever Ryan Tepera … The Blue Jays con­tinue their nine-game home stand with a three-game in­ter­league se­ries against San Diego start­ing Mon­day night … Bautista is ex­pected to join the team for Mon­day’s game.

KEVIN SOUSA, USA TODAY SPORTS

Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ de­liv­ers a pitch against the Seat­tle Mariners at Rogers Cen­tre in Toronto on Sun­day af­ter­noon. The left-han­der pitched six in­nings of one-hit ball to im­prove to 13-3 on the sea­son.

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