By Larry Millson, The Sports Xchange
TORONTO — The Texas Rangers and starting pitcher Andrew Cashner had a common cause Sunday afternoon.
They both needed to get that winning feeling on the road again. They succeeded.
With Cashner pitching seven strong innings and Joey Gallo providing the go-ahead solo home run — his 15th of the season — in the fourth inning, the Rangers defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 3-1.
It ended a five-game losing streak by the Rangers, all on the road, and ended a string of 18 starts on the road without a win for Cashner.
He had not won on the road since Sept. 16, 2015 at Arizona.
“Tremendous job by him today,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “He continues to get stronger with every outing. The biggest thing for Cash today was the ability to go up and down with the fastball, in and out with the fastball, and back it up with the changeup-curveball combo.
“He was able to get the ball on the ground when he needed to. His biggest thing is he’s getting stronger, pitches are getting sharper.”
In avoiding a sweep in the three-game series, the Rangers (25-26) stopped a five-game winning streak by the Blue Jays (23-27). The Rangers are 9-18 on the road.
Cashner (2-4) allowed five hits, two walks and one run while striking out two.
“It was a huge team win for us,” Cashner said. “Guys came out swinging the bats today. Our defense was incredible. Early in the season, I was still looking for strength. The last outing, I had some (velocity) and it was definitely there today in some big spots.”
Matt Bush pitched around a pair of two-out singles in the ninth to earn his sixth save of the season.
Toronto starter Joe Biagini (1-3) allowed seven hits, one walk and two runs in a career-long six innings. The right-hander struck out a career-best seven. It was his fifth career start after making the move from the bullpen.
“They’ve got a good hitting team and he held them in check pretty good so that’s encouraging,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “Now, really, that’s all behind him, building him up, he’s good to go, treat him like anybody else.
“I thought he was solid, good curveball, good changeup, a lot of good things happened for him. We couldn’t get lot of things going, especially against Cashner.”
Said Biagini: “It was important for me to see myself kind of be able to handle the work load, continuing to expand. I think I went from 78 pitches to 95 pitches from last week to this week.”
The Blue Jays scored a run in the first. Kevin Pillar broke out of an 0-for-12 funk with a double. He took third on a groundout and came home on Jose Bautista’s sacrifice fly to left.
The Rangers tied it in the third. Elvis Andrus beat out an infield single to third, stole second and scored on a single by Jonathan Lucroy.
Gallo’s homer in the fourth put Texas ahead 2-1.
“I made a little bit of an adjustment on my cutter the last week but I was kind of not finishing it very well,” Biagini said. “That home run to Gallo was a cutter that just kind of didn’t do anything.
Gallo was ready for the pitch.
“It was out of the zone but if I can get a good swing on it, I’ll take it,” Gallo said.
Dominic Leone replaced Biagini in the seventh. He allowed a one-out single to Andrus, a ground-rule double to Lucroy and a wild pitch that scored a run.
Keone Kela replaced Cashner and pitched a perfect bottom of the eighth.
“(Cashner) used to be power, power, power,” Gibbons said. “Now he’s learned to take a little bit off. He can throw anything at any time. He’s kind of mastered that. Really, he’s just turned into a pitcher and he kept us off-balance, when he needed it he reached back for a little bit extra on that fastball.”