BY THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO — Aaron Loup stood near his locker still wearing his jersey when Toronto Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero walked by and pointed to the young reliever.
“Hey Loup, you can take off the uniform,” said Romero. “It’s not going anywhere.”
If Loup’s first major league appearance is any indication, Romero’s probably right.
On a day that saw Toronto outslug the Cleveland Indians 11-9, the bright spot was a two-inning shutout performance by Loup who gave the Jays some hope for their creaky bullpen.
“I try to stay pretty much calm and collected out there as I possibly can, try not to let too much bother me while I’m out there,” said Loup, who said he was surprised the team let him pitch two innings after being recalled from double-A New Hampshire on Friday.
“I just try to maintain a good composure because if I get rattled and shaky that’s usually when things start going bad for me. So I try to keep it as simple as possible out there.”
The post-game celebration Saturday should have been all about the power performance put on by Toronto (44-44), which scored eight runs in the third inning for an early 10-2 lead.
Edwin Encarnacion and Yunel Escobar each had two-run shots during the inning to help chase Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez (8-8) from the game. The inning also featured four doubles and two singles by the Jays, marking only the fourth time in franchise history Toronto has had six extra-base hits, one shy of the record.
Encarnacion, who signed a US$27-million, three-year contract on Thursday, hit his 24th then added his 25th in the fifth inning for his first multi-homer game of the season and the eighth of his career. His fifth-inning shot travelled 448 feet, the longest home run at Rogers Centre this season.
Adam Lind was also dangerous at the plate, going 4-for-5 with three singles and a double.
But the Indians (45-42) slowly chipped away at the substantial lead, putting a scare into the 32,517 fans at Rogers Centre. It started with a two-run homer in the fourth by Cleveland left-fielder Shelley Duncan off Toronto starter Aaron Laffey (1-1) that effectively ended his outing and cut the lead to 10-4.
Loup entered the game and retired all six batters he faced, giving the Jays reason to feel comfortable with their lead.
That comfort eroded in the eighth when the Indians scored five runs, giving them hope for a comeback. Jays reliever Jesse Chavez gave up a pair of two-run homers to Michael Brantley and Casey Kotchman. Casey Janssen entered the game later in the inning and allowed Travis Hafner to single in Asdrubal Cabrera, cutting Toronto’s previously intimidating lead to 11-9.
Janssen held the line in the ninth for his 13th save of the season, helping the Blue Jays move back to a .500 record.
After the game Chavez was optioned to triple-A Las Vegas, and Toronto manager John Farrell was more than happy to point to Loup as the reason the Jays didn’t embarrass themselves with the advantage they had.
“Just the way he carried himself,” said Farrell. “Threw the ball over the plate. He had good tempo. He didn’t back away from a challenge being the first time that he’s at the major league level.”