Firing on all cylinders, Toronto rolls to eighth straight
Blue Jays homer three times as Buehrle notches MLB-leading ninth win
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' lineup has been producing some jaw-dropping numbers of late, but the most impressive aspect of the production is that it has come against some very good starting pitchers.
The list of recent victims includes the likes of Jon Lester, Sonny Gray, Drew Pomeranz and Jesse Chavez. The lone starter on that list with an ERA above three this season is Lester, and that only happened after he faced the Blue Jays.
The offense sacrificed yet another one of the game's top pitchers on Tuesday night, as the normally reliable Alex Cobb was no match for Toronto's red-hot offense. The Blue Jays extended their winning streak to eight games by hitting three homers for the second consecutive game en route to a 9-6 victory in front of 15,993 fans at Rogers Centre.
"We're playing really good baseball," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said in the understatement of the year. "Things are going our way. ... It's tough to do that against Cobb. Cobb's easily one of the best pitchers in baseball, there's no question about that. Going into tonight, we figured the runs were going to be limited, but we battled him."
Toronto is on the type of roll this city hasn't seen in years. There was an 11-game winning streak last June, but even that's not comparable to the overall performance of this current ballclub. The Blue Jays have won 13 of their past 15 games and 18 of 23 overall. They own the best winning percentage in baseball this month at .731 (19-7) and are just two wins shy of the franchise mark for a single month, which was set at 21 in May 2003.
The latest victory ensured that left-hander Mark Buehrle picked up his Major League-leading ninth victory of the season, but it was really the offense that once again took center stage. It marked the 10th consecutive game and 29th of 34 overall that the Blue Jays had at least one home run. Toronto has out-homered its opposition 58-32 over that span and currently leads all big league teams with 76 on the season.
The most impressive part of the entire streak, though, has been the quality of the opposing starters. That was the case Tuesday night, as Cobb entered the game riding a 21 2/3 scoreless-innings streak. He went on to set the franchise record for most consecutive scoreless innings at 24 2/3 before Toronto got to him in the fourth.
Brett Lawrie and Dioner Navarro had a pair of RBI singles to open the scoring for Toronto. In the fifth, Jose Bautista added an RBI single before Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion went deep in back-to-back at-bats. For Encarnacion, it was his 14th home run of May, which tied for a franchise record for the most hit by a player in any month. Bautista also hit 14 during June 2012.
Cobb was chased from the game at the end of that inning, but not before he allowed six runs on nine hits and one walk. It was Cobb's worst start since he allowed six runs during a start against the Red Sox on June 10, 2013. The Blue Jays have scored at least six runs 12 times this month and five times during the current eight-game streak.
"They're good right now," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Instead of denigrating our guys, give [the Blue Jays] a little credit. They're playing really well. They're toasty right now. It happens. One out of three [wins] right now sounds very enticing."
The run support allowed Buehrle to once again cruise to victory. He allowed two runs in the fourth, one in the sixth and another in the seventh, but didn't surrender a lot of hard-hit balls. One of the runs was unearned, and he eventually departed with two outs in the seventh. His remarkable run continues, as he has registered a quality start in all but two of his 11 outings this year.
"These guys are on fire right now," Buehrle said in reference to his offense. "Obviously, I didn't pitch good, I didn't have my best game tonight. I gave up those first two runs and obviously going against Cobb, [who] had a great stretch going and coming into this game was pretty good. I knew, 'Hey, we might be in trouble.' But [Blue Jays hitters] came out, bam, tied the game, put up four the next inning, two the next inning. It's impressive watching these guys."
Toronto's victory ensured that the Blue Jays won their fifth consecutive series. The club hasn't done that since it won five series in a row from Sept. 17-Oct. 3, 2010. Toronto will now be searching for its third consecutive sweep when this series wraps up on Wednesday night.
"It seems like the ball is falling our way, and we're playing good baseball," Buehrle said. "I think the biggest key for us is, for a good team, when you lose a couple of games, and then struggle, how you bounce back and respond your next couple of games.
"We're having fun, we're winning games. Everybody's having fun, but we're obviously not going to win every game. If we lose a game or two, tough situation, how do we bounce back and kind of recover from that."