Blue Jays power way to win over Angels in finale
Bautista, Lawrie go yard behind strong effort from Buehrle
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have been through some ups and downs this season, but for the most part they've remained on an even keel. The same thing could be said about their overall record.
Whenever Toronto appears to be on the verge of breaking away from the pack in the American League East it follows up a winning streak with a series of tough losses. When the club looks like it's about to fall too far behind, a much-needed win tends to right the ship.
The Blue Jays have hovered around the .500 mark all season, and that trend continued Monday night when the club snapped a three-game skid by riding a pair of home runs by Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie to a 7-3 victory over the Angels.
"They haven't been able to bury us yet," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of the AL. "We haven't put it all together, but they haven't been able to bury us. We still keep hanging around, so that gives me optimism that when it all starts clicking."
The perfect example of Toronto's highs and lows can be found in results from the past two weeks. On May 4, the Blue Jays were reeling following a series of prolonged struggles by the bullpen, which included six blown saves and three losses. Toronto headed into its series finale vs. Pittsburgh with a 1-4 mark on an eight-game road trip and things weren't looking good.
Instead of allowing the downslide to continue, though, the Blue Jays recovered and won the final three games on the trip before taking two more at home. That led to a season-high five-game winning streak, and all of a sudden there was renewed hope.
But all of the highs this season have been followed by a crash back to reality. That came when the Angels arrived on Friday night, took the first three games and were looking to sweep Toronto in back-to-back series at Rogers Centre for the first time in franchise history. The never-too-low and never-too-high Blue Jays once again rose to the occasion and made sure that didn't happen.
Left-hander Mark Buehrle was one of the main reasons why as he tossed six-plus quality innings to earn his Major League-leading seventh win of the season. After the game, Gibbons said he couldn't have asked for a better option on the mound following a tough skid, and the way Buehrle has been throwing this year, it's hard to argue.
"The last three games against [the Angels], it kind of takes the wind out of your sails," Buehrle said. "Losing three straight at home, after we did play four games in a row good against Philly, but we have to come out and battle. If we win seven in a row, or we lose seven in a row, we can't get up too high, or down too low. We have to concentrate on each game, one game at a time."
In those three losses, Toronto's high-powered offense was essentially held in check. The Blue Jays managed to score five runs over the span of 21 1/3 innings against starters Jered Weaver, Tyler Skaggs and Garrett Richards.
The odds of a turnaround were questionable with veteran left-hander C.J. Wilson on the mound for the Angels, but it didn't take very long for Toronto to avoid a similar fate. Steve Tolleson and Melky Cabrera reached base to lead off the game, and Bautista gave Toronto an early 3-0 lead with a homer to left.
Bautista's 10th of the year came on a 2-1 pitch, and he's now one home run shy of tying Jesse Barfield for fifth place in franchise history with 179. Toronto's right fielder almost made club history the day before when he came within one of a Blue Jays record for most consecutive games having reached base with 37.
Toronto then allowed Wilson to settle into a bit of a groove until the sixth inning. Adam Lind earned a one-out walk before Lawrie sent a two-run shot into the second deck beyond the left-center-field wall. Lawrie's seventh of the season came on the same day he returned from a right hamstring injury following a six-game absence.
"The pitch to Lawrie, I'd struck him out twice with that pitch before and I threw a bad one, I came all the way across the zone," Wilson said. "My ball, it was inconsistent today. I'd throw a pitch expecting it to move six inches and it wouldn't move at all, and other times it would move two feet. I was a little inconsistent with something mechanically today that wasn't allowing me to hit my spots."
The Blue Jays also added a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth inning as Juan Francisco snapped an 0-for-10 skid at the plate with a two-run single. Closer Casey Janssen then entered in the ninth for his first inning of the year, even though it wasn't a save situation.
Janssen missed the first five weeks of the season because of a strained oblique muscle. He was going to enter in the ninth even if it was a close ballgame, but there was an added benefit of getting some work in when the final result was no longer really in doubt.
"It was good, I got a little nervous, got a little excited," Janssen said. "It was good to be back out there, good to contribute and hopefully now that first one is in the past and I can get settled in.
"Those last two insurance runs helped. Checking out the lineup, you know with a couple of guys on you're going to have to face the heart of the order. It definitely made my job a little easier."