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Blue Jays dominate at plate in lopsided finale

July 3, 2016

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' offense brought the thunder again on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre.Toronto batters pounded out 18 hits and used an eight-run sixth inning to defeat the Indians, 17-1, scoring a season high in runs. Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin led the charge with three-run home runs,

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' offense brought the thunder again on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
Toronto batters pounded out 18 hits and used an eight-run sixth inning to defeat the Indians, 17-1, scoring a season high in runs. Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin led the charge with three-run home runs, while Josh Donaldson went 4-for-4 and Edwin Encarnacion added three RBIs to his Major League-leading total to hand Cleveland its first two-game losing streak since the middle of June.
The Blue Jays snapped the Indians' franchise-best, 14-game winning streak on Saturday, and they managed to earn a four-game series split with their victory on Sunday.

"I think if you're looking at it from about the seventh inning [onward] yesterday, you think OK, if [we] lose three here, that's tough, then you're going against (Corey) Kluber, possibly get swept -- that's probably going through some people's minds," Tulowitzki said. "To respond like we did, finish the series two and two, and obviously have some big games coming up before the break."
Coming off a tough outing in Colorado his last time out, Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ had everything working on Sunday. The 33-year-old left-hander limited the Indians to a single run on four hits while striking out a season-high 11 batters, and he did not issue a walk over seven strong innings to pick up the win. Happ's lone run allowed was an RBI single to catcher Yan Gomes in the top of the seventh.
"Command-wise, it seemed to be there today, compared to the last few," Happ said. "I feel like I did my job, more than anything. These guys have been playing a lot of innings. We've gone quite a few innings without a day off, and then with that 19-inning game, these guys are tired, but they're coming, showing up, playing defense and obviously with plenty of energy, which is great to see.

After winning four of his five starts in June and pitching two complete games, Corey Kluber struggled mightily in his first start of July. The 30-year-old right-hander pitched a season-low 3 1/3 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits while walking four. The former Cy Young Award winner battled his command all afternoon, finishing with just 53 strikes on 95 pitches.
"We'll put these two games aside and look at the big picture," Kluber said. "The trip was a very good road trip for us. I think that we fought through a lot of things during this road trip and came out with a lot of wins on it."
Cleveland finished its three-city swing through Detroit, Atlanta and Toronto with an 8-2 record, and set a club record with 14 consecutive wins -- a streak that ended Saturday -- in the process.
Including Sunday's outing, Indians relievers totaled 24 2/3 innings over the past three games, prompting manager Terry Francona to use catcher Chris Gimenez for the final two innings on Sunday. Gimenez -- who allowed four runs on four hits -- became the third position player to pitch in the series, after the Blue Jays used utility infielders Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney in Friday's 19-inning marathon.
"We knew that game, there's repercussions," Francona said of the ripple effect of Friday's extra-inning game. "That's why we wanted to win so bad. When you expend that much on your ballclub, coming away with a win was important for us. The next thing is to protect your bullpen, and we tried to do that as best we can."
Tulo's day: Toronto's star shortstop did not disappoint on Troy Tuowitzki Bobblehead Day at the park. Tulowitzki went 3-for-5 with four RBIs, launching a three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth, and added a pair of singles along with a sacrifice fly. The veteran shortstop has hit .321 (17-for-53) in 14 games since coming off the disabled list.

"We knew he was a good player, he always has been," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said about Tulowitzki. "We always believed we would start to see that, and he's playing really good. Even before he got hurt, he was starting to heat up and then he picked it right back after he came off the DL. His track record speaks for itself. When you accomplish all that, there's a reason. He stepped up today on a big day -- Bobblehead Day." More >
Quick hook: Simply put, Kluber just didn't have it on Sunday. After a stellar June, during which he posted a 2.19 ERA with a 67-percent strike rate and 1.7 walks per nine innings, the right-hander issued four walks in 3 1/3 innings, allowed seven hits and logged 55.8 percent strikes (53 in 95 pitches). Francona pulled the plug in the fourth and gave the ball to reliever Joba Chamberlain.

"I thought it was kind of hard for him from the beginning," Francona said. "Every once in a while, he gets into his delivery where he's kind of going sideways a little bit instead of his direction to the plate. He knew he was fighting it. … We tried to get him out of there, because he had thrown a lot, and they were all high-intensity."
Starting early: The Blue Jays have been no strangers to jumping on opposing pitchers early, and they continued that trend on Sunday. In the first, Martin launched a three-run home to center off Kluber. According to Statcast™, Martin's seventh home run of the season left the bat at 105 mph and traveled a projected 417 feet. Martin's drive pushed the Blue Jays' first-inning run total to 64, which leads the American League.

Take one for the team: Typically used as a lefty specialist, Tom Gorzelanny was asked to handle a heavier workload in the sixth inning, considering Kluber's exit and Cleveland's taxed bullpen. That contributed to Toronto's eight-run explosion that put the game out of reach. Gorzelanny faced eight batters, but he could only notch one out. He allowed four hits, including Tulowitzki's three-run homer, and issued three walks before being pulled.
"I was hoping that the work would be good for him and maybe he could go two," Francona said. "But you could just see it wasn't going to work."
The 17 runs were the most Toronto scored in one game since Aug. 7, 2010, vs. the Rays.
The 11 wins by Happ are the most by a Toronto pitcher prior to the All-Star Break since Roy Halladay had 11 in 2008.
The Blue Jays used a pair of position players (Goins and Barney) as pitchers in Friday's 19-inning marathon. During Sunday's game, it was Cleveland's turn. Gimenez, who entered as a third baseman in the sixth inning, took over on the hill for the seventh. It marked his second career pitching appearance, having also done so for Texas in a 15-6 loss to the Angels on July 10, 2014. Gimenez logged one shutout inning with a strikeout in that game two years ago. This time around, he allowed four runs on four hits in two innings. All four runs came in the eighth, when Justin Smoak belted a two-run homer off the Tribe's main backup catcher. Gimenez became the first Indians position player to pitch more than one inning since 1968, when Willie Smith did it twice (June 1 and 24) that season.

"Everybody was pretty much in survival mode," Gimenez said. "I told [Francona], I said, 'Hey, if I have to throw, I will absolutely do it, because there's more at stake here than just this game.' We've got a big series coming up against Detroit at home where we need guys fresh and ready to go. If I have to go out there and throw 63 miles an hour, then so be it." More >
Indians: Following a road trip that saw the team finish a club-record 14-game winning streak, the Tribe will return home Monday for a sold-out Fourth of July game against the Tigers. Fresh off winning the AL Pitcher of the Month Award for June, righty Danny Salazar (10-3, 2.22 ERA) is slated to take the ball in the 7:10 p.m. ET divisional clash.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Aaron Sanchez gets the ball as the Blue Jays open a three-game set against the Royals, with first pitch set to fly at 7:07 p.m. ET. Sanchez dominated the Rockies his last time out, throwing eight innings of one-run ball while inducing 14 ground outs. The 24-year-old has won his last seven decisions.
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Alykhan Ravjiani is a reporter for based in Toronto.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.