Toronto outfielder Kevin Pillar has come through with some solid offensive output in recent weeks to go with his stellar defensive game.
On Thursday night, he delivered a critical play on the basepaths that helped extend a key inning and propel the Blue Jays to a 7-1 victory over the New York Mets.
Pillar broke up a potential inning-ending double play with a hard slide into second base in the fourth inning. That allowed Russell Martin to come home from third base and set the stage for the top of Toronto’s potent batting order.
The meat of the lineup tacked on four more runs off Mets starter Bartolo Colon and the Blue Jays were on their way to an eighth straight home win and 13th victory in 15 games overall.
"That’s good hard-nosed old-time baseball," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "It’s what you’ve got to do to win."
Chris Colabello homered and Jose Bautista drove in two runs as Toronto completed a two-game mini-sweep in front of 27,588 fans at Rogers Centre. Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey got the better of Colon in the first matchup of starting pitchers aged 40 or older since 2008.
Dickey (3-6) was wild at times but more effective as the game went on, allowing one earned run and three hits over 7 1/3 innings.
"I was happy that the young buck won tonight," he said.
Toronto (36-32) remained two games behind first-place Tampa Bay in the American League East division standings. The Rays beat the Washington Nationals 5-3.
New York (36-32), which dropped an 8-0 decision to the Jays a night earlier, kept their 1-1/2 game lead over Washington in the N.L. East.
Dickey flirted with danger in the second inning after walking three batters to load the bases before getting Curtis Granderson on a strikeout.
After Martin scored in the fourth inning, Jose Reyes hit an RBI single and Josh Donaldson followed with an RBI double. Bautista brought two more runs home with a single.
"That’s the beauty of this offence," said Pillar, who has 15 RBIs in his last 15 games. "There’s a lot of professional hitters on this team. A pitcher might get us once or twice (through the order) but guys are constantly making the adjustment."
In the fifth, Juan Lagares stroked a two-out double to the gap for New York’s first hit of the night. Colabello led off the Toronto half of the frame by belting a 1-0 pitch for his fifth homer of the year.
Lucas Duda hit a rainbow solo shot in the eighth inning to end Dickey’s shutout bid. It was his 10th homer of the season.
"He gutted it out," Gibbons said of Dickey. "He really did. He was determined, you know. And then our offence took over and gave him a little breathing room."
Colon (9-5), a 42-year-old right-hander, worked 4 1/3 innings and allowed six earned runs, nine hits and a walk while striking out four. Dickey, who’s two years his junior, allowed three hits and five walks while striking out seven.
"When he’s on, he’s tough to hit and you have no way to prepare for it," said Mets manager Terry Collins.
Notes: The game took two hours 34 minutes to play. … Blue Jays second baseman Maicer Izturis underwent shoulder surgery this week and is expected to miss the rest of the season, Gibbons said before the game. The oft-injured infielder did not play this season and played only 11 games last year. … Toronto will continue its five-game homestand Friday night with the opener of a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. Marco Estrada (4-3, 4.24 earned-run average) is scheduled to start for the Blue Jays against fellow right-hander Mike Wright (2-2, 4.13). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time both starting pitchers in a game were 40 or older was Aug. 15, 2008, when Philadelphia’s Jamie Moyer faced San Diego’s Greg Maddux.