Canadian rakin': Tulo, Blue Jays power past Astros
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are known for hitting home runs. Just ask the Astros' pitching staff.
Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin and Edwin Encarnacion went deep as Toronto's offense carried the club to a 9-2 victory over Houston on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre. Right-hander Marcus Stroman picked up the victory after tossing 6 1/3 innings.
Tulowitzki went 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and three RBIs, while Martin followed Tulowitzki with his 10th homer of the season and Encarnacion added his 33rd home run. That was enough to pick up the series victory over Houston as the Blue Jays completed the homestand in sole possession of first place in the American League East.
"We hit some homers," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said with a sly smile after the game. "As much as everybody always says, 'Well, there's more to do it than that,' that's accurate. That's what we do best. The key is, get some guys on base and pop one here and there."
Astros right-hander Mike Fiers took the loss after he allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out seven over 4 2/3 innings. He has now allowed five home runs in his last two starts.
"They never let up," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "When they get in the lead they can hunt some pitches to hit and they hit the ball out of the ballpark. We didn't have an answer to stop them, so they clearly won the series."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Back to back: The Blue Jays carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth and then broke the game wide open with a pair of big home runs. The first was courtesy of Tulowitzki, who hit a 3-1 fastball over the wall in left-center field for his 20th home run. Martin then followed with a solo shot to right-center field as Toronto recorded back-to-back homers for the seventh time in 2016.
"I didn't want to give [Tulowitzki] anything too good." Fiers said. "I had a base open and I fell behind 3-0, tried to throw him a strike and he capitalized on 3-1. I tried to keep it down and away and it leaked over more than I wanted to, and he made me pay for it. That was a big moment in the game. And then obviously the home run afterward and I was out."
Taking advantage: The Astros capitalized on Stroman's throwing error to tie the game at 1 in the top of second inning. With two on and two outs, Stroman threw Teoscar Hernández's jam shot past first baseman Justin Smoak. The error was Stroman's third in his last two starts and allowed Carlos Correa to score.
The catch: The Astros were trailing, 5-2, in the top of the seventh, but they were threatening with a pair of runners on and one out when Martin came to the rescue. Alex Bregman, who represented the tying run at the plate, hit a high popup toward the Astros' dugout along the first-base line. Martin tracked the ball the entire way and got to the railing of the dugout just in time to reach over and make a spectacular grab. Blue Jays reliever Joaquin Benoit then got José Altuve to line out and end the threat.
"For a catcher, that's as good of an opportunity as you're going to get to make a nice play," Martin said. "It felt good, for sure."
Flying solo: Jason Castro gave the Astros their second run of the game with a long home run to lead off the seventh. According to Statcast™, Castro's seventh home run of the season traveled 426 feet and left the bat at 105 mph.
STREAK COMES TO AN END
Altuve's streak reaching base consecutive road games came to an end at 43 on Sunday, as the All-Star second baseman finished his afternoon 0-for-4. Altuve was the second player in club history to reach base in 43 straight road games in a single season, joining Jeff Bagwell, who reached in 43 straight games in 1998 and a franchise-record 51 consecutive games in '99.
"I'm sure everybody in the ballpark is pretty surprised when he doesn't get on base," Hinch said. "He puts up good at-bats. He did the best he could, but every good thing comes to an end."
Astros first baseman Marwin Gonzalez left the game after taking a pitch off his left knee and suffering a contusion in the second inning. Gonzalez is considered day to day, and X-rays on the 27-year-old came back negative.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Blue Jays joined Baltimore as the only teams in baseball with four hitters who have 20 or more home runs. Tulowitzki's two-run shot in the fifth inning was his 20th, as he joined Michael Saunders, Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson at that plateau.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Astros lost their challenge in the bottom of the third inning after disputing a hit-by-pitch call on Blue Jays designated hitter Encarnacion. Hinch believed the ball touched the knob of the bat before hitting Encarnacion's hand, but replays confirmed the call on the field.
The Blue Jays were unsuccessful in challenging an out call on Melvin Upton Jr. in the sixth, after Upton was picked off and caught stealing on a 1-3-6 putout for the second out of the inning. A review confirmed Correa's tag before Upton reached second base.
Astros: After an off-day on Monday, Dallas Keuchel gets the ball as the Astros open a two-game set at Minute Maid Park against the Cardinals on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Keuchel pitched a three-hit shutout against the Rangers his last time out and has allowed two runs or less in five of his last six starts.
Blue Jays: Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will take the mound when the Blue Jays open a three-game series against the Yankees on Monday in New York at 7:05 p.m ET. Dickey has surrendered at least four earned runs in four of his last five starts.
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