TORONTO — Roberto Osuna fell behind 3-0 to the first batter he faced on Friday night.
After that, he had no trouble.
The Blue Jays’ rookie closer bounced back with three straight strikes, then promptly struck out the next two hitters, en route to his 16th save of the season and a 5-3 win over the Detroit Tigers.
Osuna touched 97 miles per hour on the radar gun while striking out the Tigers’ five-, six-, and seven-hole batters — J.D. Martinez, Nick Castellanos, and James McCann.
While the 20-year-old is new to his big-league gig, his teammates have been impressed with his composure on the mound.
“It feels like the kid’s got a few years in that (closer’s) role all ready,” said Josh Donaldson, who hit a home run in the victory. “Three-0 to the first hitter right there, kind of all over the place and he’s able to get come back — boom, boom, boom — get the strikeout on Martinez. … He did a great job.”
Troy Tulowitzki and Donaldson hit back-to-back homers, the eighth time Toronto’s done that this season, while Jose Bautista also went deep for the Blue Jays (72-56). Edwin Encarnacion extended his hit streak to 23 games while driving in a run.
R.A. Dickey (9-10) went 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits while fanning six. Mark Lowe got out of the seventh with a strikeout to former Blue Jay Rajai Davis and Aaron Sanchez needed just five pitches in the eighth before Osuna took care of the rest.
“Oh he’s so good,” Dickey said of Osuna. “Sanchez too. Sanchez faced the heart of the order, he came in and had a really clean, quick inning.
“I always like watching relievers come in after me because the offence has seen so many knuckleballs all night long. When you’ve got guys out there throwing 95, 96, it just compounds the velocity because it’s so much of a difference.”
Dickey threw 94 pitches, 60 for strikes, and cruised through much of the game.
“I was on a good roll there in the middle,” he said. “I was able to get our team back in the dugout quickly after we scored runs which is always big.”
Defence was also key for Toronto, which remained 1 1/5 games up on the Yankees for first place in the American League East after New York’s victory over the Atlanta Braves.
Tulowitzki made a spectacular off-balance, jumping throw to get Ian Kinsler out at first base in the eighth inning. Ryan Goins made a back-handed snag and quick toss to first to get Victor Martinez out in the fourth.
“That play Tulo made, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “And Goins, I don’t think that surprised anyone. He’s been as good as any second baseman you’re going to find out there.”
Kinsler and former Toronto centre-fielder Anthony Gose hit homers for the Tigers (60-68).
Former Blue Jays pitching prospect Matt Boyd (1-5), who was part of the deal that sent David Price to Toronto, took the loss after giving up five runs over six innings. The 24-year-old left-hander also walked three and struck out four.
Kinsler launched the first pitch he saw from Dickey over the left-field wall in the first inning but the Blue Jays got the run back in the bottom of the frame when Encarnacion plated Bautista on a double to centre-field.
Tulowitzki’s one-out solo shot gave Toronto the lead in the third, and Donaldson followed with his 35th homer of the year, a monster blast that hit the fifth-deck at Rogers Centre.
“I knew I hit it well,” Donaldson said. “I didn’t know if it was going to stay fair or not but it was one of those things where I got a pitch in a spot that I was looking for and was able to get the bat there.”