Top of Toronto order sparks outburst in Milwaukee
Five-run sixth key as Blue Jays amass highest output since July 28
MILWAUKEE -- The Blue Jays will look back on this three-city road trip with disappointment, but if there's one consolation prize, it's that they're at least heading home on a positive note.
Toronto hit the road 10 days ago with grand aspirations of securing themselves as bona fide contenders for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. It didn't work out that way, but there is finally some life in a lineup that has been otherwise dormant.
Jose Bautista and Colby Rasmus sparked a big day at the plate with home runs as the Blue Jays enjoyed their highest offensive output of the month in a 9-5 victory over the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon at Miller Park.
"In reality, that's baseball. You go through those stretches," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They didn't get a couple of two-out hits, might have made a difference in the game too. Sometimes the pitcher is pretty good, sometimes it doesn't take much to just miss a ball."
The production on offense was a stark contrast to the way the Blue Jays have been playing this month. Toronto entered play on Wednesday having averaged three runs per game, and the team that's known for hitting homers had seven, which ranked last in the Majors.
The Blue Jays' lack of runs was the main reason the road trip got off to such a poor start. Toronto was swept in Seattle after scoring four runs in three games, and even though the numbers were better in Chicago, it resulted in only one win over the White Sox.
That's going to have to change in a hurry if the Blue Jays have any realistic hope of remaining in the Wild Card conversation. The pressure will be on the big names at the top of the order to lead the way, and they came through during the series finale in Milwaukee.
The big three of Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista combined for seven hits. Each player doubled while Bautista added his 24th home run of the season in the breakout afternoon at the plate.
"It's a team effort when you win," Gibbons pointed out. "You have your key guys, your big boys in the middle, and they have to carry you, but everybody has to pitch in one way or the other, and then you have to play good defense."
Toronto was quiet through four innings, but scored two in the fifth and took control of the game in the sixth. Josh Thole and Munenori Kawasaki had back-to-back doubles with one out, and the top of the lineup took it from there. Reyes and Cabrera hit back-to-back singles before Bautista homered for the first time since Aug. 11.
The five runs in the inning were the most Toronto has produced in one frame since the club scored nine during the sixth inning vs. Boston on July 28. That game vs. the Red Sox also marked the last time Toronto scored more than six runs.
"It's great to have an inning where you put a crooked number up there," Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey said. "I feel like we've been overdue for that. That's kind of our calling card, is being able to put up big innings, and we haven't had one in a while."
Brewers right-hander Jimmy Nelson was charged with four of the Blue Jays' nine runs. He was pulled after the back-to-back doubles, and reliever Zach Duke didn't retire either of the two batters he faced. Brandon Kintzler eventually surrendered the Bautista homer as Toronto jumped in front, 7-3.
Dickey picked up the victory after giving up five runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings. He was on the verge of another quality start until a two-run homer in the sixth inning by Carlos Gomez chased him from the game. Even though Dickey got the win, it was the first time since June 4 that he didn't go at least six innings.
"I expect more out of myself, especially there in the sixth," Dickey said. "I was one out away from a tolerable outing, but I've got to get better at being able to close out innings where we score runs in the top of the inning. I was right there, just one bad floating knuckleball and it was a two-run home run. I fought hard, as hard as I could."
Toronto will take the day off on Thursday before opening a lengthy homestand vs. the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees. If the make-or-break time hasn't occurred for the Blue Jays yet, it's about to.
"You hope so, we've done it before," Gibbons said when asked about his team needing the type of spark that can come from Wednesday's win. "We're looking forward to getting home. We definitely play better there. We've had so many off-days lately. At one point, you can't wait to have one, now you'd like to go out and play again tomorrow after today's game. But we'll get rested up. It's a big homestand."