By John Henry, The Sports Xchange
ARLINGTON, Texas — The long ball has been Toronto’s recipe for scoring runs all season.
“Lately it doesn’t seem like we score unless we’re hitting home runs,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
This season, Toronto has scored 56 percent of its runs off home runs. If that holds up through the year, it would be the highest rate of production from home runs of any team in major-league history, according to STATS Inc.
That changed Monday when the Blue Jays used a couple of base hits at the most crucial time of the game.
Josh Donaldson drove in the tying run with a hard-hit single, and two batters later Kendrys Morales’ base hit drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth in Toronto’s 7-6 comeback victory over the Texas Rangers.
The Blue Jays sent eight hitters to the plate in scoring twice on three hits and two walks off Texas closer Matt Bush (2-2), who blew his third save attempt in 11 opportunities.
Jeff Beliveau (1-0) earned the victory by working a scoreless eighth.
Right-hander Roberto Osuna pitched a perfect bottom of the ninth to record his 18th save.
Left-handed reliever Aaron Loup played a key role in keeping Toronto in the game, entering the game to get the Blue Jays out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the fifth. He retired all five batters he faced in the fifth and sixth while recording three strikeouts.
“I’m proud of all of them. It was a tough game on both sides,” Gibbons said. “Both starters gave up runs early and then both bullpens shut the teams down until the end.”
Ryan Goins led off Toronto’s half of the ninth with a double. Kevin Pillar popped out to second before Donaldson delivered a base hit to tie the game. Jose Bautista, who had a home run in the Blue Jays’ four-run fourth, walked to bring up Morales, who drove in Donaldson.
“After he gave up the leadoff double on the fastball, he got away from I think what his best pitch is, and that’s the fastball,” said Texas manager Jeff Banister of Bush, who blew his second save in a span of four chances. “Two walks, one was on a slider, the other a curveball and the rest of the damage was done on his secondary stuff.”
“I left a couple of pitches up, and they did their job and deposited them,” Bush said.” I felt like I didn’t attack guys enough. I feel like I missed with some sliders and getting beat on my second-best pitch. I can’t lose faith in my fastball. It’s not that I don’t trust the pitch. It’s just that I want to keep hitters off-balance and off my fastball.”
Morales was 2-for-5 with a double. Justin Smoak hit his 20th home run in the second. Steve Pearce, who has hit in a club-best six consecutive games, had a three-run double.
Adrian Beltre’s double in the Rangers’ five-run fourth put Texas up 6-5.
Beltre’s hit also moved him further up baseball’s statistical ladder, passing Al Kaline for 37th all-time with 1,583 RBIs. He also tied Luis Gonzalez for 17th all-time with his 596th double and matched Cal Ripken Jr. with 1,078 extra-base hits, 23rd all-time.
Elvis Andrus contributed a two-run single in Texas’ big inning, which was boosted by three walks off Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada.
Nomar Mazara had a solo home run in the first for Texas.
Neither starter figured in the decision.
Texas journeyman Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who spent 2013-15 in the Toronto organization, gave up five runs on five hits and a walk while striking out five over five innings.
Offensively, the Rangers finally figured out Estrada, who entered having limited Texas to one earned run in six of his seven career starts against them. In his last start in Texas, Estrada was masterful, giving up one run over 8 1/3 innings in Game 1 of the ALDS in October.
Monday, though, marked a fourth straight poor outing.
In four starts in June, Estrada is 0-4, having given up 34 runs on 24 hits and seven walks over 16 1/3 innings. This time walks were the problem as he allowed four free passes.
“I’m in a bit of a pitcher’s slump, I guess, and it (stinks),” Estrada said. “But the good thing is we won. I’m happy. The only thing I’m upset about is the bullpen had to pick up those innings.”
Estrada wasn’t the only one with walk issues. Left-handed reliever Dominic Leone walked the bases full in the fifth with one out. Loup, however, rode to the rescue.
“Loupy’s been around a few years. I’ve seen him do that many times,” Gibbons said. “He’s had a good solid year. I think that’s the best he’s looked in his last few appearances because he’s throwing strikes, hitting his spots.”
The teams combined to send nine hitters to the plate in the fourth and in total threw 79 pitches.