Blue Jays beat Rays, extend winning streak to eight
TORONTO — Some call it the Ed-wing. Others describe it as taking the parrot for a walk.
When Edwin Encarnacion rounds first base on his home run trot, he raises his right arm slightly and sticks out his elbow. It has become a very familiar sight during the Blue Jays’ season-high eight-game winning streak.
The Toronto slugger homered for the third straight game as the Blue Jays outscored the Tampa Bay Rays 9-6 on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre. Encarnacion hit one of three Toronto homers and starter Mark Buehrle picked up his major league-leading ninth victory for the American League East division leaders.
Encarnacion, who has hit 14 of his 16 homers in May, also tied Jose Bautista’s club record for most homers in a month set back in June 2012.
“You can’t describe it,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “I’ve been seeing that parrot a lot, that’s for sure.”
Adam Lind and Juan Francisco also went deep for the Blue Jays, who outhit the Rays 13-12. Toronto has won 13 of its last 15 games and 18 of 23.
“They’re no fun right now,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon. “Everything they’ve got going on right now seems to be working.”
Buehrle (9-1), meanwhile, allowed eight hits and three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings. He wasn’t as sharp as previous starts but kept the damage to a minimum. Lind and Encarnacion hit back-to-back shots in Toronto’s four-run fifth inning.
“Everybody’s having fun,” Encarnacion said. “You can see it on their faces. We’re playing great baseball when we’re on the field. So I think that’s the No. 1 thing we’ve been doing.
“Playing great baseball, playing the best baseball and enjoying it, enjoying the game.”
Lind’s homer was a two-run blast and Encarnacion followed with a monster shot that landed just above the second deck inside the left-field foul pole. Francisco added a solo shot in the seventh and Casey Janssen worked the ninth inning for his eighth save as Tampa Bay (23-30) lost its second straight game.
Toronto (31-22) will go for the sweep of the three-game series on Wednesday night.
“Just this offence and the way the guys are swinging the bat, it seems like the pitching - everything is coming together,” Buehrle said.
Both Buehrle and Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb (1-2) were quick and efficient over the first three innings.
The Rays scored a pair in the top half of the fourth and the Jays answered with two runs of their own in the bottom half. Toronto went to work in the fifth after Jose Reyes lashed a ball back to the mound that hit Cobb on his right side near the waist.
Cobb stayed in but struggled through the rest of the frame, giving up an RBI single to Bautista before the back-to-back homers.
“I’d love to blame it on something but honestly it was really good hitters hitting good pitches,” Cobb said.
The Blue Jays tacked on two more runs in the sixth and a single run in the seventh.
“It was one of those games that didn’t feel good even until the end,” Gibbons said. “We opened up the lead a little bit and then they tacked on a few runs to pull to within three. It definitely wasn’t a comfortable game.
“But when you fall behind, I mean we’re confident right now. We’re really confident.”
Buehrle, who received a standing ovation after he was pulled, walked a batter and struck out three. Cobb allowed nine hits, six earned runs and a walk over five innings while striking out seven. His earned-run average jumped from 1.40 to 2.93.
“I thought Cobb had really good stuff tonight, not pedestrian by any means,” Maddon said. “He was really good, moving along really nicely and all of a sudden they struck.”