TORONTO -- The Blue Jays accomplished something on Friday night at Rogers Centre that they had not done in more than a month: They won back-to-back games.
Toronto picked up consecutive victories for the first time since winning three straight from April 29-May 1. The momentum from Thursday's extra-innings victory over Baltimore carried over, as left-hander J.A. Happ tossed seven strong innings in a 5-1 win to pick up win No. 100 for his career.
Toronto went 33 games between consecutive wins, the second longest in-season skid in franchise history. The last time that happened was back in 1979 when the Blue Jays were in their third season and had a stretch of 49 games without back-to-back victories. Before the game, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was made aware of the dubious stat.
"That's hard to do," Gibbons said, before adding, "maybe it'll happen tonight."
"All I know is that's two in a row and it's been over a month," Gibbons said after the game. "It's a great feeling."
Russell Martin, Randal Grichuk and Kevin Pillar led the way on offense with solo home runs, but most of the credit for the recent turnaround belongs to the rotation, which is finally starting to live up to its billing after spending the first two months with one of the highest ERAs in the Major Leagues. Happ scattered a pair of hits and two walks while striking out three to give the Blue Jays their fifth consecutive quality start. His only blemish was an unearned run that scored on a Devon Travis throwing error in the second.
Toronto's rotation has not allowed more than one earned run in any of the past five games, limiting the opposition to a .155 average (17-for-110). It started with Aaron Sanchez, then carried over to Marco Estrada, Sam Gaviglio and Jaime Garcia, and finally to the club's top overall pitcher this season: Happ. The streak of consecutive quality starts is Toronto's longest since Sept. 21-28, 2016.
"We're just throwing the ball well," Martin said. "They're attacking the zone, getting ahead of hitters, keeping the defense on their toes. It just seems like they're in a good rhythm. I feel like we haven't had a time where our starters, our bullpen and our offense have been clicking. So if we can get all of that clicking at the same time, we can get on a little streak. It would be nice."
Toronto reached double digits in hits for the second consecutive night, as well, banging out 13 hits one night after notching 12, which was its highest total since May 16. Teoscar Hernandez, Aledmys Diaz, Pillar and Martin all finished with multiple-hit nights. Orioles right-hander Andrew Cashner took the loss, after he was charged with three runs on nine hits over six innings.
"I don't want to say we were searching, but that was tough in [Detroit] and then coming in and losing that [Yankees] series, too. It's a good start -- you have to start somewhere," Happ said of Toronto's recent stretch. "Now we have two. See if we can get a streak going."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The four-out save:Dennis Tepera appears to have found a home at the back of Toronto's bullpen, after a rough start in the closer's role following the extended departure of Roberto Osuna. In the eighth inning, Tepera was brought into the game with runners on the corners and two outs. With the potential tying run at the plate, Tepera induced a slow chopper off the bat of Manny Machado to escape the jam that was created by Seunghwan Oh. Tepera returned for the ninth and has now converted his last three save opportunities.
"Not a lot of guys can do that now," Gibbons said of the multi-inning save. "There's something about coming in, getting an out, and then sitting for a while. Even today … we had a long [eighth] inning, so he's sitting there and that's usually what affects guys. Sometimes all it takes is an opportunity; the big one was coming in and getting Machado out when he was the tying run. He's one of the best players in the game. That's key."
Piling on: Insurance runs have been a rare commodity around these parts of late, but the Blue Jays found a way to give their pitchers a little bit of breathing room late Friday. In the sixth, Martin added an RBI single, and in the seventh Hernandez hit an RBI triple to right field off O's reliever Tanner Scott. Pillar then put the game out of reach in the eighth with his sixth home run of the year.
"I feel like we definitely have enough offense to generate some runs," Martin said. "I feel like we're getting our guys starting to come around. I feel like [Kendrys Morales] is certainly swinging the bat better, Grich is coming around and having some good at-bats. Myself, getting a couple of hits today. We definitely have some guys who can hit the ball well. We just have to keep it going."
The Blue Jays kicked off Pride Month in Toronto with Pride Night at Rogers Centre. The first 20,000 fans into the building received a Blue Jays Pride hat and during the game fans took part in pride-theme activities in the WestJet Flight Deck, which included a photo station, rainbow flag giveaways and live entertainment.
"Pride Night represents the diverse, accepting, and vibrant city the Blue Jays are fortunate to call home," said Marnie Starkman, vice president of marketing & events, Toronto Blue Jays. "The inspiration to host Pride Night this season came directly from our fans' feedback, conversations with LGBTQ community groups and members, and the team's desire to offer an inclusive and welcoming experience to all Blue Jays fans."
HE SAID IT
"It's a cool number, it's a nice number that I'm proud of. I'm going to enjoy it tonight and try to get 101 the next time." -- Happ, on win No. 100
The Blue Jays continue their four-game series against the Orioles when Sanchez takes the mound on Saturday at Rogers Centre, with first pitch scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET. The right-hander is coming off a strong outing vs. the Tigers in which he allowed one earned run over six innings. It was his first time going at least six innings since April 30. The Orioles will counter with Kevin Gausman.