TORONTO — A solid start from Texas right-hander Andrew Cashner brought an end to the suddenly surging Toronto Blue Jays‘ season-high five-game winning streak.
Cashner (2-4) allowed one run and just five hits over seven innings to help the Rangers (25-26) avoid a sweep with a 3-1 win in front of 46,188 fans at the Rogers Centre on Sunday.
That spoiled the best outing of the season from reliever-turned-starter Joe Biagini (1-3), who threw a career-high 95 pitches and gave up two runs over six innings for the Blue Jays (23-27), who finally have most of their lineup healthy as they wrap the first leg of a 10-game, 10-day homestand.
"I thought he was solid," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Biagini. "We just couldn’t get anything going against Cashner."
With recently returned infielders Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson back in the Blue Jays lineup after a day off, Toronto struck first when Kevin Pillar led off the bottom of the first inning with a double and scored on a Jose Bautista sacrifice fly.
From there, Cashner settled in. The six-foot-six right-hander struck out only two but worked nimbly out of trouble when the Blue Jays managed to threaten, including a fourth inning in which he gave up opening walks to Bautista and Kendrys Morales before grounding Russell Martin into a double play and leaving the inning with only 13 pitches.
"He’s been one of the most sought-after arms the last few years in baseball, and one of the best arms in baseball," Gibbons said later. "He used to just be power, power, power. â€¦ (Now) he can throw anything at any time. He’s kind of a master at that."
The Rangers’ lineup, meanwhile, was slightly more opportunistic than Toronto’s. They tied the game in the third after Elvis Andrus eked out an infield single, advanced to second with his 10th stolen base of the season, and scored on a single to centre from catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
An inning later, Joey Gallo clubbed his 15th home run of the season over the wall in left-centre to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. After reliever Dominic Leone took the ball for the Blue Jays in the seventh, Texas made it 3-1 when Andrus singled, advanced to third on a Nomar Mazara opposite-way double, and then scored on a wild pitch.
The Jays threatened to rally in the ninth after two-out singles from Justin Smoak and Martin, but closer Matt Bush got Tulowitzki to ground out to earn his sixth save.
Still, it was an encouraging start for Biagini, who sailed past the season-high 77 pitches he threw in his last start against the Brewers. Biagini hadn’t gone more than five innings in four previous starts since being shifted from the bullpen. Gibbons said after the game the process of building Biagini up was "behind him."
"He’s good to go — treat him like anybody else," Gibbons said. "They got a good-hitting team over there and I thought he kept them in check pretty good."
Biagini was more self-critical, assessing his performance as a "C-plus, maybe B-minus."
"A lot of room for improvement. I would definitely categorize it as a learning experience," said Biagini, who turns 27 Monday. "It’s fun to pitch in those kinds of games and fun to get the opportunity to start again for a team like this that’s been winning. I think we’re going to continue to climb back into the race here."
NOTES: On "Country Day" at the Rogers Centre, fans scored Blue Jays-themed straw hats and the band Southtown, fronted by Blue Jays manager John Gibbons’ daughter Jordan, performed a pre-game concert from the centre-field stands. â€¦ The game was announced as Toronto’s third sellout of the season. Injured Jays left-hander J.A. Happ walked through the Blue Jays clubhouse post-game. He was scheduled to throw a side session Sunday and could return to pitch against the Reds on Tuesday.