ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Toronto Blue Jays have remained in the thick of the AL playoff race despite a dismal start to September.
Thanks to some familiar big bats and a well-rested knuckleballer, the Jays are finally gathering a bit of momentum for the pennant race.
Troy Tulowitzki hit a two-run homer, R.A. Dickey pitched scoreless ball into the sixth inning and Toronto stayed atop the AL wild-card chase with a 5-0 victory over the freefalling Los Angeles Angels on Friday night.
Edwin Encarnacion added a late two-run homer for the Blue Jays (81-66), who stayed even with Baltimore for the league’s two wild cards. Both teams trail Boston by two games for the AL East lead with 15 to play.
"We look at it, of course," Dickey said. "That’s part of a post-season run. You’re competing against teams in your division that are good. We know what we need to do to get where we want to get."
Toronto has lost seven of 11 overall, but took the first two games of a weekend series with the Angels, who have lost five straight and nine of 10. The Blue Jays have won consecutive games for the first time in September.
"Hopefully, maybe this is the start of a little roll," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It would be good timing if it was."
Dickey (10-14) bolstered his case to keep a rotation spot by limiting the Angels to seven hits and striking out five. His first start since Sept. 5 began with a rough first inning before he settled in.
"It’s not ideal to pitch once every 10 days, especially for a knuckleball pitcher," Dickey said. "It was a little bit of a challenge to find the release point and the grip. Once I got that, it was easier."
The Angels chased Dickey and loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth, but failed to score against Joe Biagini when Kaleb Cowart flied out to end the inning. Cowart also struck out to end the eighth, stranding two more Angels.
Roberto Osuna got four outs for his 33rd save.
Encarnacion’s homer in the ninth inning was his 40th, boosting his AL-leading RBI total to a career-high 118. He joined Jose Bautista and Carlos Delgado as the only Blue Jays with multiple 40-homer seasons.
"It’s a nice number to reach," Encarnacion said. "I’m really happy to be part of that group. Those two guys are big horses."
Jered Weaver (11-12) matched his career high for losses despite throwing six mostly sharp innings of seven-hit ball for Los Angeles, striking out four.
"My fastball command was really good all night," Weaver said. "It’s the best it’s been in a while. I was able to locate down and in all night. Just one stupid pitch, and that’s the difference in the game."
Tulowitzki connected in the fourth inning on that pitch from his fellow product of nearby Long Beach State’s prolific baseball program. The homer, Tulowitzki’s second in September, was the 36th allowed by the slow-throwing Weaver this season, one shy of James Shields for most in the majors.
Albert Pujols became the 16th player in big league history to get 600 career doubles with a drive into the left-field corner in the first inning. Pujols joined Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron as the only players with at least 575 homers and 600 doubles.
A fan behind the Angels’ dugout was injured when Carlos Perez’s bat went flying into the crowd as he swung and missed at a third strike in the second inning. Medical personnel spent several minutes attending to the fan, who was escorted from her seat with an injury on the right side of her head.
Blue Jays: Josh Donaldson was the designated hitter for the second straight game as he returns deliberately from a hip injury. Darwin Barney played third.
Blue Jays: Francisco Liriano (7-12, 5.16 ERA) limited Tampa Bay to three hits and two runs in his last start.
Angels: Ricky Nolasco (5-14, 4.94) has just one win since joining Los Angeles, but it was a shutout at Angel Stadium. He has never beaten Toronto in four career starts.