By Larry Millson, The Sports Xchange
TORONTO — The Devon Travis Show played well on the road for the past week. And Friday night, it was an instant hit at home.
The Toronto Blue Jays second baseman hit a grand slam and added a double and a single to extend his hit streak to 10 in a 7-6 win over the Texas Rangers. He also threw out a runner at the plate in the fourth inning.
Travis has turned it on in May after a slow start in April as he returned from offseason knee surgery.
“He’s driving the ball now,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “Early the season he had trouble getting that ball out of the infield. You look back and he really had no spring training, that’s a big part of it. He’s always been able to hit, he’s got a pure stroke and he’s elevating the ball right now.”
Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales hit solo home runs for the Blue Jays.
Rougned Odor hit a three-run homer for the Rangers with two outs in the ninth inning against Joe Smith before Roberto Osuna struck out Mike Napoli to post his eighth save.
It was the fourth win in a row for the Blue Jays (22-26) and the fourth consecutive loss for the Rangers (24-25).
Travis hit his grand slam against Texas starter A.J. Griffin in the second inning.
“The first pitch was a heater,” Travis said. “I was just trying to be ready early in the count and look for something over the plate. He’s real tough. The next pitch was a changeup and I stayed through it enough.”
Blue Jays reliever Aaron Loup (2-0) pitched 1 1/3 perfect innings with one strikeout to gain the win.
Toronto starter Mike Bolsinger allowed six hits, four walks and three runs (two earned) in 4 2/3 innings. The right-hander struck out two.
Griffin (4-2) allowed three hits, two walks and four runs in 1 1/3 innings. The right-hander had two strikeouts before leaving with a strained left intercostal. He was put on the disabled muscle in his left side and Dillon Gee was called up from Triple-A.
“It got pretty tight there that last batter,” Griffin said. “It felt more like a cramp earlier on in the game. Sometimes those come and you can just pitch through them. It just kept tightening more and more, grabbing more and more. It was uncomfortable.”
Toronto increased its lead to four runs in the sixth.
Troy Tulowitzki walked with one out and Travis singled. Jeremy Jeffress replaced Austin Bibens-Dirkx and walked Ezequiel Carrera to load the bases. Kevin Pillar grounded to first to force Tulowitzki at home. Travis scored on a wild pitch.
Danny Barnes and Ryan Tepera followed Loup from the bullpen. Smith took over in the ninth before allowing a two-out infield single, a double and Odor’s seventh homer of the season to cut Toronto’s lead to one.
The Rangers scored an unearned run in the second inning. Napoli walked and reached third base on a throwing error by Travis in an attempted force at second on Joey Gallo’s grounder to second. Jared Hoying followed with a sacrifice fly.
Travis hit his second career grand slam in the bottom of the second to give Toronto a 4-1 lead. It scored Smoak (walk), Russell Martin (singled) and Tulowitzki (walk).
Travis seemed as impressed with the return of Tulowitzki and third baseman Josh Donaldson from the disabled list as he was with his own accomplishments.
“Awesome, you can’t explain the presence that those guys bring, not just to other teams but to guys in this clubhouse,” Travis said. “When those guys step in the clubhouse and you see their names on the lineup card you know it’s business, you can feel it, you can feel it in the clubhouse, you can feel it on the field, you can feel it in the crowd. We’ve got our team back, it’s nice.”
Griffin struck out Carrera before leaving the game with the injury. He was replaced by Bibens-Dirkx, who allowed Smoak’s 11th homer in the third inning and Morales’ ninth in the fifth in pitching four innings.
“Bibens-Dirkx did a heck of a job coming in, giving us some innings that we desperately needed in that situation,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “I think the story more than anything else is 2-for-15 in run-scoring opportunities. Anytime you have that ratio, it becomes a challenge.”
The Rangers scored a run in the fourth. Napoli led off with a single, took second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a groundout and came home on a groundout to first by Hoying.
The Rangers added a run in the fifth on walks to Elvis Andrus, who stole second and third, and Odor, and a single by Napoli. Loup replaced Bolsinger and ended the inning on a groundout.