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Martin hitting 2nd working for Blue Jays

MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- If the Blue Jays are going to find their way back to contention, the club needs to get more from the top of its lineup. Thursday night's 7-4 victory over the Astros was a good start.

Jose Bautista reached base twice, and more important, Russell Martin went 3-for-5 with his second homer in two days. For a team that has been struggling to score runs, it was an important development as Toronto looks to get more value out of Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak in the heart of the order.

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TORONTO -- If the Blue Jays are going to find their way back to contention, the club needs to get more from the top of its lineup. Thursday night's 7-4 victory over the Astros was a good start.

Jose Bautista reached base twice, and more important, Russell Martin went 3-for-5 with his second homer in two days. For a team that has been struggling to score runs, it was an important development as Toronto looks to get more value out of Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak in the heart of the order.

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Martin was inserted into the second spot because of his ability to get on base. He's not a traditional No. 2 hitter, but far too many of Smoak's homers this year have been of the solo variety. The only way that can change is with more baserunners, and the Blue Jays are seeing signs that the tides could be turning in that department.

"Ever since we flipped them, both Jose and Russ have done a good job of doing that," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said in reference to getting on base with regularity. "Russ has always hit in the big leagues. He's always historically been a slow starter, and then he just picks it up and finishes strong. That's just what he's doing now."

Since moving into the second spot of the lineup, Martin is hitting .261 (12-for-46) with a pair of doubles, two homers and five RBIs in 12 games. The .363 on-base percentage is exactly what the club was looking for. Add in a .429 OBP from Bautista over the same stretch and the Blue Jays finally have the makings of a proper top to the lineup.

The results showed in the series opener against first-place Houston on a night when everybody in the lineup contributed. All nine starters had at least one hit. Donaldson drove in a pair and broke an 0-for-15 slump, Troy Tulowitzki snapped an 0-for-22 skid with runners in scoring position, and Toronto finished with at least 13 hits for the first time since June 18.

Video: HOU@TOR: Donaldson smacks a two-run single to right

The end result is that the Blue Jays have their first three-game winning streak since the end of May. There's still a long way to go before Toronto can realistically look at its record with eyes toward the postseason, but it has to start somewhere, and with a series victory in New York followed by Thursday's win over Houston, the club finally has some momentum. It's been a long time coming.

"It's a tough team, and any time you get to win the first game of a series, it feels good," said Martin, who hit his ninth home run of the season in the bottom of the sixth. "We've been playing pretty good ball lately, and I think the key is just keep doing that. Keep having confidence in each other and keep putting good at-bats together. Keep playing good defense and hopefully our pitching stays the way it is. We're working on all facets right now."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Russell Martin