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McCullers finds trouble as Astros fall to Jays

MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' offense needed a few innings to come to life on Thursday, but there was no looking back after Josh Donaldson's two-run single keyed a five-run outburst in the fifth as they topped the Astros, 7-4.

Following an inconsistent stretch at the plate, Toronto's lineup got top-to-bottom production led by Russell Martin, who went 3-for-5 with his ninth home run of the season, an add-on run in the bottom of the sixth. All nine members of Toronto's lineup recorded at least one hit.

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TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' offense needed a few innings to come to life on Thursday, but there was no looking back after Josh Donaldson's two-run single keyed a five-run outburst in the fifth as they topped the Astros, 7-4.

Following an inconsistent stretch at the plate, Toronto's lineup got top-to-bottom production led by Russell Martin, who went 3-for-5 with his ninth home run of the season, an add-on run in the bottom of the sixth. All nine members of Toronto's lineup recorded at least one hit.

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The Blue Jays have now won three consecutive games for the first time since May 29-31 and have scored seven runs in back-to-back games for the first time since June 18-19. The trend will have to continue if the club wants to get back into the fringes of American League postseason contention before the upcoming non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31.

Video: HOU@TOR: Martin belts a solo homer to right field 

"We shut down a great hitting team, a hot hitting team," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We've been doing that the last three games that we won. I think we've been playing some pretty good baseball. We'll see. We'll see where it takes us."

Francisco Liriano gave the Blue Jays exactly what they needed by keeping the game close. The left-hander scattered eight hits over his six-plus innings, striking out four and walking just one. It was the third consecutive start in which Liriano lasted six innings or more after doing the same just twice in his first 11 outings.

For Houston, Lance McCullers Jr. looked sharp after escaping a first-inning jam before running into trouble in his third trip through the order. McCullers allowed six runs (five earned) on nine hits over 4 1/3 innings.

Video: HOU@TOR: McCullers K's Tulowitzki to avoid trouble

"Everyone's allowed a bad day at work," Astros manager A.J. Hinch after the loss. "He didn't have a horrible day. Obviously it didn't end well for him and they piled together a couple of hits. Hung a couple of breaking balls and they put together a good plan against him."

Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman both had three hits on the night, including two RBIs from Altuve and two doubles from Bregman. Marwin Gonzalez and Carlos Beltran each homered, both solo shots.

Video: HOU@TOR: Altuve picks up another RBI single

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Donaldson gets the green light: Donaldson put the Blue Jays ahead, 3-2, in the bottom of the fifth with a two-run single that brought home Jose Bautista and Martin. The third baseman worked a 3-0 count, but instead of walking Donaldson to load the bases for Justin Smoak, McCullers threw Donaldson a low four-seam fastball that he drove to the opposite field.

Video: HOU@TOR: Donaldson smacks a two-run single to right

"Really the last few games, he's fouled off a lot of pitches he normally, hits but you're not going to hold him down for long," Gibbons said of Donaldson, who snapped an 0-for-15 skid with the RBI single. "He's too good of a hitter. He gets frustrated like anyone else, but if this is the start of something, he'll explode in a big way. He always has. He's one of the top hitters in the game, but he has to feel good about tonight."

Extending the inning: After Michael Feliz took over for McCullers, the Astros had a chance to turn two when Kevin Pillar chopped a grounder back to the mound. Feliz missed the throw to second, however, and was charged with an error. That left the bases loaded with two outs, setting up Ryan Goins for an RBI double that brought home Toronto's fifth run of the inning.

"We'd like to get an out," Hinch said. "I'm not sure if there was confusion between [Carlos Correa] and Jose on who was supposed to cover. Feliz turned and it was vacated, so I think he just tried to lob it to second. Just a bad play. Didn't record an out when we probably should have."

Video: HOU@TOR: Goins smashes an RBI double to center field

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With his ground-ball single in the first inning, Correa extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games. It is also the longest active streak in Major League Baseball.

Video: HOU@TOR: Correa extends hitting streak to 14 games

Roberto Osuna entered for the save, marking the first time he's worked three consecutive days since July 24-26, 2016. With Thursday's save, he has recorded saves on three consecutive days for the first time in his career.

Video: HOU@TOR: Osuna gets Correa to ground out, earns save

GONZALEZ'S NIGHT ENDS EARLY
Gonzalez was ejected in the top of the sixth by home-plate umpire John Libka. Gonzalez had just struck out, and with Brian McCann at the plate, Gonzalez continued to exchange words with Libka until he was tossed from the bench.

Video: HOU@TOR: Gonzalez tossed for arguing the strike zone

CORREA NOT PLEASED WITH ENDING
Correa reportedly took exception to how Osuna handled the final out. Correa hit a sharp grounder back to Osuna, which the Blue Jays' closer snagged on one hop before slowly taking a few steps toward first base and finally making the throw.

"Next time I face him, he better not give up a homer," Correa told the Houston Chronicle.

WHAT'S NEXT
Astros: Right-hander Charlie Morton (5-3, 4.06 ERA) makes his return from the disabled list Friday at 6:07 p.m. CT. Morton returns after being sidelined from a right lat strain. He last pitched on May 24, but was striking out batters at a career-high rate of 10.1 per nine innings before landing on the DL.

Blue Jays: Right-hander Aaron Sanchez (0-1, 3.33) will make his long-awaited return from the disabled list for Friday's 7:07 p.m. ET game against the Astros. Sanchez is coming off a pair of rehab starts in the Minor Leagues but he has not pitched at the big league level since May 19. He has been limited to five appearances so far this year because of a blister on his right middle finger. Sanchez's pitch count is expected to be around 90.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto and covered the Astros on Thursday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.