They may be below .500 but the Toronto Blue Jays are a veteran bunch that knows how to take advantage of pitches left up in the zone. That's why Lance McCullers unraveled Thursday night at the Rogers Centre in what became a 7-4 loss in the opener of a four-game weekend series north of the border.
Martin: Bangs solo shot in sixth
(c) Canadian Press
After a solo homer by Marwin Gonzalez gave the Astros an early lead, McCullers worked through three shutout frames before the wheels began coming off. Former Astro Steve Pearce slapped a single to center that scored Kendrys Morales. It should have been two runs for the Blue Jays but Kevin Pillar's double to the alley hopped over the fence forcing Pearce back to third where he was stranded.
Jose Altuve plated Alex Bregman in the fifth but the Jays answered right back. After two singles and a passed ball opened the inning, Josh Donaldson ripped a two-run single to right. One out later, Morales drilled a double that got Donaldson all the way home. Troy Tulowitzki then plated Morales with a base hit to left. It was time to send the All-Star pitcher to the showers.
Michael Feliz entered and two more Blue Jays joined the parade of runners before Ryan Goins smashed a double that caromed high off the center field fence. While Tulowitzki scored, Pearce was gunned down at the plate on a perfect relay from Jake Marisnick to Carlos Correa to Brian McCann. Still, it was 6-2 Toronto and the Astros were looking up at a challenging deficit.
Russell Martin added a solo shot for Toronto before Houston answered with a second RBI single by Altuve and a solo homer from Carlos Beltran to close the scoring. Altuve and Bregman each had three hits and a stolen base to lead Houston's 11-hit assault.
Francisco Liriano lasted six innings and gave up three runs on nine hits yet earned the win. A quartet of relievers ended with Roberto Osuna notching his 22nd save and 21st consecutive one.
Charlie Morton (5-3) will finally return from the Disabled List to pitch Friday's 6:07 Central contest for Houston. Aaron Sanchez (0-1), not to be confused with Anibal Sanchez, is the scheduled pitcher for Toronto. The Astros finally suffered their tenth road loss of the season but they still own the best overall record and best road record in the majors.
- Bob Hulsey