TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki returned to the Blue Jays' lineup on Friday night, but it was second baseman Devon Travis who stole the show.
Travis finished 3-for-4 with a grand slam and a double in Toronto's 7-6 victory over the Rangers. In the process, he set the record for the most extra-base hits in any one month by a Blue Jays second baseman, and tied Fred Lewis for the most doubles in the month of May with 15. How good has Travis been? He opened the month batting .130, but has since hit .372 (29-for-78) with 15 RBIs and 10 multi-hit games.
Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales chipped in with a pair of solo home runs while right-hander Mike Bolsinger allowed three runs, but came one out shy of the minimum five innings required to pick up the victory. Donaldson went 1-for-4 in his first game back from a right calf muscle injury while Tulowitzki earned a couple of walks and a run scored in his return from right hamstring issues.
"I just think the biggest thing has been able [I'm] to slow the game down," said Travis, who finished a triple shy of the cycle. "Stick with your approach. When you're having a little bit of success, it's a lot easier to believe in your approach and what you're doing. I'm just continuing to take it day by day, at-bat by at-bat. Bring something to the yard every day to help the team win."
Right-hander A.J. Griffin was saddled with the loss for Texas as he lasted just 1 1/3 innings because of a strained left intercostal muscle, a group of muscles between the ribs. Earlier that same inning, the right-hander allowed the grand slam to Travis.
"It got pretty tight there, that last batter," said Griffin, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list after the game. "It felt more like a cramp early on in the game. Sometimes those come and you can just pitch through them, but it kept tightening more and more."
"The starting rotation took a hit right off the bat," said Texas manager Jeff Banister after the game. "A guy that has been successful for us. He had four wins, challenged for the last few."
Rougned Odor made things interesting in the top of the ninth with a three-run homer that cut Toronto's lead to one. Odor had been loudly booed every time he stepped to the plate and even received a standing ovation from the Rogers Centre crowd following a strikeout in the seventh, but he got some revenge in his final at-bat. In the end, it wasn't enough as Toronto closer Roberto Osuna entered to strike out Mike Napoli, recording his eighth save of the year.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Clearing the bases: Travis stepped to the plate in the bottom of the second inning with the bases loaded and nobody out. He unloaded on a changeup from Griffin that was on the inner half of the plate and sent it over the wall in left field. According to Statcast™, Travis' fourth home run of the year was projected to travel 361 feet and left his bat at 93 mph. He became Toronto's first No. 8 hitter to hit a grand slam since Brett Lawrie on April 15, 2014, vs. Minnesota and he also joined Morales and Ryan Goins as the only Blue Jays to hit a grand slam this season.
"He's on a really good roll," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He's driving the ball now. Early in the season, he had trouble getting the ball out of the infield. That was kind of worrisome. ... He's got a pure stroke. One of the most natural hitters on our team and he's elevating the ball. He's getting the ball airborne. He's a pretty good hitter."
Costly miscue: The Rangers trailed by three early, but they had a perfect opportunity to get back into the game during the top of the third. Elvis Andrus led off with a single, and two batters later Jonathan Lucroy hit a chopper down the first-base line that went off the glove of Smoak. Andrus kept running all the way from first base, which appeared to catch Jose Bautista off-guard in right field. Bautista casually tossed the ball into the infield, but Travis was ready as he fired home in plenty of time to get Andrus by a couple of feet.
"I think a lot of people don't realize the things he does back there," said Travis, who quickly turned the praise onto catcher Russell Martin following a nice pick at the plate. "He picks balls that guys normally have to block. He has hands like a shortstop or second baseman. If you ask him, he'd probably tell you that, too. He's really good back there. That was nice."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Toronto hit grand slams in back-to-back games for the first time since April 20-21, 2001, when Brad Fullmer and Raul Mondesi did it. This time it was Travis and Goins.
Travis became the first Blue Jays second baseman in franchise history to hit two grand slams.
With two out in the top of the ninth, Nomar Mazara chopped a short ground ball up the first-base line that reliever Joe Smith fielded. Mazara was called safe at first on a close throw from Smith, which was confirmed on a challenge.
Rangers: Right-hander Yu Darvish (5-2, 2.83 ERA) will get the start in the second game of the series on Saturday at 12:07 p.m. CT coming off his shortest outing of the year, five innings against the Tigers. Darvish has walked four batters in three of his last five starts, but his strikeout numbers have begun to trend upward in May.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marco Estrada (3-2, 3.30) will take the mound when this series continues at 1:07 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre. Estrada is coming off an outing in which he tied his career high with 12 strikeouts while allowing one run over 7 2/3 innings vs. the Orioles.
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