HOUSTON -- Rookie left-hander Ryan Borucki, seemingly unfazed that he was making his big league debut against the defending World Series champions, gave the Blue Jays' beleaguered rotation a welcome boost on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park with a strong six-inning performance.
Borucki not only faced one of baseball's most vaunted lineups, but he also kept up with a mound opponent who spent much of his outing mowing down the Blue Jays' hitters in Toronto's 7-0 loss to the Astros.
Borucki's 95-pitch outing ended after allowing two runs on six hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
"I thought he was fantastic against a great-hitting ballclub," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They put the pressure on him, and he didn't cave. The two runs came on a seeing-eye ground ball. You take that any time. He should feel great."
Borucki spent most of his outing with no margin for error. Astros starter Charlie Morton had eight strikeouts through four innings and fanned 13 over seven scoreless innings.
Credit Borucki for maintaining his composure while skillfully working through relatively heavy traffic on the basepaths during his six innings. The Astros produced six baserunners in the first four frames, but it wasn't until the fifth when Houston broke through, scoring two runs on a hit by Evan Gattis.
Earlier, Houston had numerous scoring chances, but Borucki, aided by a slick Toronto defense, kept things in check.
"I was a little nervous," Borucki said. "But once I got to the third, fourth, fifth and sixth, I was more comfortable, more settled down. My pitches were a lot better."
Borucki's strongest pitch is his changeup, which helped him early when he struggled with his fastball command, and later, when he settled in and got into a rhythm.
"My changeup really kept me in there, kept them off-balance a little bit," Borucki said. "Once I started getting my fastball command, they started working together a little bit better."
"He got in some trouble, they put some pressure on him, but he made some big pitches and did some good things," Gibbons said. "That's a great one to build off of. He has an outstanding changeup. I knew he had a good one, but I thought he threw some good ones tonight. He should have a good future."
Josh Reddick's one-out single in the second posed the first real challenge. He advanced to third on Jake Marisnick's two-out double, but Brian McCann's comebacker to the mound, which bounced off Borucki's glove and caromed to short, represented the final out when Aledmys Diaz retrieved it and made a quick throw to first.
"We had him on the ropes a couple times," Houston manager AJ Hinch said. "He did take a ball up the middle off of him and collected himself. I was impressed with his demeanor. You're going to come into this place, against this lineup, and make your debut -- I thought he held his own great."
Borucki left the game with a 2-0 deficit that was widened in the eighth when Marisnick knocked a three-run homer off Blue Jays reliever Preston Guilmet. That same inning, Bregman added a two-run homer off Tim Mayza.
Borucki admitted that it crossed his mind heading into his debut that he would be facing one of the best lineups in baseball. He welcomed the test.
"It went through my mind a little bit, but baseball's baseball," Borucki said. "I was just happy to be here. I was just trying to take advantage of the opportunity, and if mystuff works against these guys, I feel like i could stay here for a little bit."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Leaping catch prevents runs: The Astros, who were thwarted by Randal Grichuk's game-saving catch the night before, exacted a little revenge with their own defensive gem. With the Blue Jays down, 2-0, and two outs in the sixth, Teoscar Hernandez singled and Yangervis Solarte walked. Both baserunners were on the move when Justin Smoak sent a towering fly ball to the mesh fencing that protects the visitors' bullpen. After a full sprint, Marisnick leaped several feet in the air and snagged the ball against the fencing, ending the inning.
Borucki became the 12th pitcher in Blue Jays history to go at least six innings and give up two or fewer runs in his big league debut. He's the first since Zach Stewart on June 16, 2011, vs. the Orioles.
HE SAID IT
"He made it to Triple-A, but never got the opportunity [to play in the Majors]. It was a shared dream between me and him. It's probably going to be an emotional hug when I go out there to see him, for sure." -- Borucki, on his dad, who traveled from Chicago to be in Houston for his son's debut
The Blue Jays and Astros wrap up their three-game series with a matinee matchup on Wednesday, beginning at 2:10 p.m. ET. Right-hander Marco Estrada (4-7, 4.48 ERA) will take the mound for the Blue Jays' finale looking to continue his dominant June, during which he has a 1.75 ERA over four starts. The Astros will counter with left-hander Dallas Keuchel (4-8, 3.90).