TORONTO — It was about as ugly a win as you can get.
Toronto starter Mark Buehrle fell trying to throw a pitch, balking in a run. Closer Casey Janssen didn’t finish the ninth. Even Rogers Centre couldn’t make up its mind, opening and then closing the dome.
When the dust had settled, the Blue Jays had defeated the lowly Texas Rangers 9-6 Sunday, securing the series win over the worst club in the majors.
The teams combined for 27 hits. But it was hardly a precision batting display. Texas left nine men on base while going 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position. Toronto stranded eight and went six-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
Melky Cabrera answered a Texas comeback with a leadoff homer in the seventh inning and singled home two more runs in the eighth to lead the Jays. Cabrera gave Toronto a 6-5 lead when he sent reliever Neftali Feliz’s third pitch of the day deep to centre field. It was the left-fielder’s 12th home run of the season, delighting the crowd of 36,011 on a 23-degree day.
One inning later, Munenori Kawasaki made it 7-5 with an RBI single after Toronto loaded the bases with one out on three singles. Then Cabrera slammed a single to right-centre to bring home Anthony Gose and Jose Reyes.
Toronto (51-49) has now won seven of the last eight completed series against Texas (39-59) at Rogers Centre.
Perhaps more importantly, the Toronto offence woke out of its slumber. The nine runs were the most by the Jays since they scored 14 on June 20 in Cincinnati. Toronto, which had lost its last three series, also notched its first multi-homer game since July 2.
“We came to life today,” said manager John Gibbons, who noticed a change in attitude early in the game.
“I felt a little more energy in the dugout. The guys seemed a little more relaxed, some funny comments. They’ve been grinding it pretty hard lately. It’s been wearing on them.”
Janssen, recovered from a stomach ailment, gave up three hits and a run in a nervous ninth and was replaced by Aaron Loup with two outs and men on first and second. The left-hander finally ended it by inducing former Jay J.P. Arencibia to pop out on a 3-and-2 pitch for his fourth save.
“I just didn’t see that crispness coming out there,” Gibbons said of Janssen, who converted 14 of 16 save opportunities in the first half of the season.
Left-hander Brett Cecil, coming on in the eighth with no outs and a man on second, snuffed out an earlier Rangers threat.
Cabrera went 3-for-5 and has now hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games and 23 of his last 28. He also made a fine catch in left field, snagging the ball at his shoe top.
“I just think the all-star break did him wonders,” said Gibbons. “He’s out there every day. It did most guys some good. He just needed to refresh a little bit. His hand, speed, bat speed looks a little bit better. That’s the key to hitting, if you get a good swing. ”
Buehrle did not look fresh as he went six innings in his eighth unsuccessful attempt to record a win since June 1.
“He was a little off,” said Gibbons.
“It’s too bad he hasn’t had a win in so long,” he added. “Because he’s definitely pitched well enough to have a few more under his belt. But that’s the way baseball is sometimes. There’s no justice in this business.”
The day wasn’t all bad for Buehrle. He picked off two Rangers and is now five shy of tying Andy Pettitte for most career pickoffs (105). Plus he was headed to the Tim McGraw show after the game.
Todd Redmond (1-4) got the win for one inning in relief of Buehrle while Feliz (0-1) was tagged with the loss.
Down 5-2, the Rangers had rallied for three runs in the sixth to tie the score as the bottom of the order loaded the bases. The Buehrle balk and a Daniel Robertson two-RBI single made it a whole new ball game.
“That’ll make the bloopers,” said Gibbons.
Buehrle, who called it “embarrassing,” said he went down because his cleat caught. He would have tried to throw the ball at the plate but was more concerned about not hurting himself going down.
“Obviously I haven’t been as sharp as I want to be the last times I’ve been out. It hasn’t been really that good. I don’t know. Just a couple of those days. Don’t want to have them but they’re going to come in the course of season and (I) just need to turn it around.”