TORONTO - The Toronto Blue Jays found a perfect tonic for their pitching woes Saturday.
It’s called a laugher.
It didn’t take long for the roof to cave in on Angels starter Garrett Richards. Thanks to him being able to consistently hit the fat part of the Jays’ bats and two errors from Los Angeles’ outfielders, Toronto was able to put up seven runs in the second inning and coast to an 11-2 victory.
The beneficiary of the offensive surge — one home run, one triple, two doubles and three singles in the 11-batter second — was Jays right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who had to exit his previous start against the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning due to elbow soreness.
After receiving a clean bill of health from team doctors, Alvarez was back on the hill in his regular rotation spot Saturday.
Oddly enough, he never looked better as Alvarez breezed through seven innings on 80 pitches while allowing one run on seven hits to go along with three strikeouts and no walks. With the win, he moved to 5-6 on the season.
“No, it (his elbow) wasn’t a problem, he felt good today,” Alvarez said through coach Luis Rivera.
Alvarez flourished as he pounded his sinking fastball and mixed things up with his changeup.
“He said he worked really hard with his sinker and he was keeping his sinker down,” Rivera said. “He used his changeup a lot and only threw one slider today.”
Alvarez's biggest contribution to the Jays, beyond the win, was his ability to go seven innings. Ever since the Jays had three starters go down with injuries, they’ve had just one other starter go seven innings and that was Ricky Romero on June 22. So, the day of rest for the bullpen was much needed.
No one knew how much Alvarez would be able to contribute, so for him to go seven innings and surrender one run was in the unexpected range.
“It was a very encouraging day in a number of ways for Henderson,” Jays manager John Farrell critiqued. “He pitched into some right-handers and he put the ball on the ground (ground ball outs). I thought he used his changeup very well today.”
The seven-run second saw Yunel Escobar hit a two-run home run while Kelly Johnson came up with two hits, a bloop double down the left-field line and a sinking liner to left that should have been a single, but thanks to a misplay by Mike Trout the ball bounced over his head for a triple.
The seven runs in one inning equalled Toronto's season high and were also the most that the Halos have allowed in one inning in 2012.
Thanks to the two errors — a two-out line drive by Brett Lawrie that was dropped by centre fielder Peter Bourjos and an overthrow to third base by Trout that ended up in the Jays dugout — five of the runs allowed by Richards were unearned.
The Jays, however, weren’t done.
In the fifth, Angels reliever David Carpenter was greeted with a three-run home run by Lawrie on his second pitch. It was Lawrie’s eighth homer of the season.
“I think we put good swings on the ball and we allowed ourselves to get into counts where we could do some damage,” Lawrie said. “I think we did a good job of just getting the next guy up and we allowed ourselves to put runs on the board and Alvarez helped us out. He got us back in the dugout and allowed us to get momentum.”
It marked the first time the Angels have suffered consecutive losses since June 3-4 and the first time they have lost two in a row on the road since a three-game skid May 19-21.
With the victory, the Jays have won two of the first three games in the series and can win it a victory in Sunday’s finale. Few would have predicted that scenario to be a possibility heading in.
Before the game, Farrell was asked if there were any pre-start worries regarding Alvarez.
“If there were pre-start worries we wouldn’t have started him,” Farrell replied. “The fact is he went through his throwing program the last three days, got on the mound the other day and there were no ill effects of any kind so he’s ready to go.”
He was, and so too were the Jays hitters.