TORONTO - The Toronto Blue Jays may be a team that lives and dies by the home run but this sixth consecutive victory, a 2-0 decision over the Colorado Rockies, was a tribute to small ball at its tiniest.
After Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa had mesmerized them for seven baffling innings on just one hit, the Jays put together a game-winning rally in the bottom of the eighth inning, pushing across a pair of runs at the bottom of the batting order against reliever Matt Belisle.
No. 6 hitter Rajai Davis started the rally with an opposite field leadoff single. With Colby Rasmus at the plate, Davis stole second before Rasmus eventually walked. After J.P. Arencibia tried to bunt them over on one pitch, he swung away and dribbled a perfect swinging bunt back to the pitcher to put both Davis and Rasmus in scoring position.
That brought Maicer Izturis to the plate. Izturis had broken up De La Rosa's no-hit bid in the sixth with a single and also saved a run with a big defensive play up the middle in the fifth.
Now, at crunch time, Izturis lofted a two-run dying quail single into no-man's land in left field, making a winner of reliever Brett Cecil.
"He didn't hit it hard, but he dropped it in a nice place and we got a nice read at second base by Rasmus. Maicer is starting to settle in a little bit. New guy in a new place, a free agent trying to impress and maybe pressing too much. I think he's settled in and is comfortable now to be part of the team."
Josh Johnson had pitched almost as well as De La Rosa all evening and had left with one out in the eighth inning after allowing five hits and striking out 10. He didn't get the win but he was a huge part of it.
"You look at what he has done since he has been back, two out of three (starts) have been dominating," said manager John Gibbons. "He had everything going. Good, live fastball, and a good breaking ball. He was attacking well and he got out of that big jam early. He needed that. He's looking to bounce back and contribute."
It became clear from the start that base hits and runs were going to be at a premium in this one.
After he took out the Rockies in order in the first, Johnson got into a second-inning jam when back-to-back singles put Michael Cuddyer at third and Todd Helton at first with nobody out. Johnson then fanned Wilin Rosario and Tyler Colvin before getting out of the sticky situation on a fly ball to right by Nolan Arenado. Those three outs were the start of 11 consecutive batters set down by Johnson until Arenado doubled with two outs in the fifth. Toronto shortstop Izturis then saved a run, diving to stop a ball up the middle hit by Jonathan Herrera, throwing him out to end the inning.
"I was a lot more aggressive than last outing, trying to pound the zone, throw my slider, throw my curve ball to both sides of the plate," said Johnson. "I just made pitches whenever I needed to. I could feel it in the first inning. I was just letting it go, not trying to force anything."
Ever since he developed inflammation in his triceps muscle in April, it has been one thing after another that has continually interrupted his flow. Now he hopes that is behind him.
"It's been a little frustrating," he said. "In the spring everything was clicking. I was right where I wanted to be. If I could have ridden that out for the whole season, that would have been good. It didn't work out that way, but now we're winning and that's the fun part. I just want to be out there pitching."
Meanwhile De La Rosa was cruising. The only baserunner he allowed in the first five innings was Melky Cabrera, who walked to lead off the game and then again to start the fourth. The closest thing the Jays had to a base hit in that stretch was a third-inning line drive up the middle by Izturis, flagged down by second baseman D. J. LeMahieu who laid flat out to steal the hit.
Rajai Davis also stung a liner with one out in the fifth but it was hit right at third baseman Arenado for the out.
The Rockies threatened again in the sixth inning when LeMahieu doubled to the wall in right with one out. He went to third on a grounder to Adam Lind at first base but was stranded when Helton popped up to end the threat.
De La Rosa's no-hit bid ended with one out in the sixth when Izturis drilled a groundball cleanly through the right side of the infield for a single.
Colorado threatened again in the eighth, driving Johnson from the game in the process. Herrera singled to lead off and Fowler then walked. After LeMahieu sacrificed the runners along, with Johnson now over 100 pitches on the night, Gibbons went to Cecil, arguably the team's best reliever this year.
Carlos Gonzalez crushed Cecil's first pitch but his screaming liner was snared by Lind at first with a quick move to his right for the second out. After an intentional walk to Cuddyer -- his first baserunner after successfully erasing 25 hitters in a row -- Cecil induced an inning-ending grounder to second base to end the inning.