Blue Jays sweep Rockies for eighth straight win

Blue Jays first baseman Adam Lind is congratulated by teammate Edwin Encarnacion after hitting a...

Blue Jays first baseman Adam Lind is congratulated by teammate Edwin Encarnacion after hitting a home run against the Rockies at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, June 19, 2013. (FRED THORNHILL/Reuters)

KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:37 AM ET

TORONTO - As much as the Toronto Blue Jays couldn’t do anything right in April, they can do no wrong in June.

All the little things — the errors, the bounces and, yes, the poor performance — that went against them early on to put them in such a deep dark hole, are now falling in their favour.

This eighth consecutive victory, a 5-2 decision over the Colorado Rockies that completed a series sweep, was a perfect example of the way the pendulum can swing both ways and of just how dominant their bullpen has become.

“When you get on winning streaks, good things come from up and down the lineup,” said manager John Gibbons. “They’re all pitching in. Everything is clicking right now. You feel good about anybody who is coming up.

“Any time you get a lead, it changes everything. The pitcher can settle in and relax a little bit. He doesn’t have to live and die with every pitch. It’s tough when it’s an uphill battle. You get the lead, you feel good and you can set up your pitching any way you want.

“Early on this season, we were playing from behind every night, it seemed, and it definitely changes the complexion of a game.”

On a night when Mark Buehrle wasn’t his sharpest, bending but not breaking, the Jays were able to lean on a strong, rested relief corps to nurse a lead home all the way from the fifth inning onward, allowing only one hit and two baserunners over the last four innings.

“As far as Buehrle goes, it was a battle for him today,” said Gibbons. “It was a gutsy outing. He wasn’t on but he did what he does best: He makes a pitch when he has to. He keeps em off balance. It was a tough outing for him and we figured after the fifth, that was enough.”

With a bullpen that is performing as brilliantly as the one at his disposal, Gibbons had no hesitation to go early to his relievers, especially facing a day off Thursday.

“We’ve been saying it over and over, how good these guys are,” he said. “There will come a time when the bullpen gives up some runs but right now they’re on some kind of roll.”

Adam Lind’s three-run home run in the first inning off Colorado starter and loser Juan Nicasio was all the offence Buehrle and friends would need. Buehrle was tagged for eight hits and two runs over five innings, but got out of a jam with his final pitch of the night to set the stage for the stellar bullpen crew of Neil Wagner, Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar and Casey Janssen.

Wagner and Cecil each worked a perfect inning, each striking out a pair. Delabar walked the first man he faced in the eighth, then struck out the side. Janssen got the first two outs of the ninth before Carlos Gonzalez — who had earlier homered against Buehrle — doubled for the only hit of the night allowed by a reliever. Janssen got Michael Cuddyer to ground out to end the game, earning his 16th save.

In the aftermath, the Jays are now just one game below .500 for the first time since the 11th game of the season. In the meantime, they have been as far under as 11 games.

The Rockies made two costly early errors and the Blue Jays made them pay both times.

In the first inning, with one out, Jose Bautista bounced a routine grounder to third baseman Nolan Arenado but first baseman Jordan Pacheco could not handle Arenado’s low throw. Encarnacion then singled into right field and both runners trotted home ahead of Lind’s ninth home run of the season to give the Jays a quick 3-0 advantage.

After Pacheco doubled leading off the second and scored on Yorvit Torrealba’s single, Toronto restored its three-run lead in the fourth. Colby Rasmus walked leading off. One out later, Maicer Izturis hit what should have been an inning-ending double play ball but second baseman D.J. LeMahieu booted it, allowing Rasmus to go to third. Emilio Bonifacio then grounded to the shortstop who flipped to second to get Izturis but the relay could not get the speedy Bonifacio at first, allowing Rasmus to score.

In the fifth, Carlos Gonzalez’s leadoff homer cut the advantage to two runs and the Rockies went looking for more when a Wilin Rosario double, combined with a Munenori Kawasaki throwing error, put runners at first and third with two out. Buehrle ended the threat with a clutch strikeout of Tyler Colvin.

Toronto scored its final run in the seventh. Kawasaki tripled down the right field line with one out and came home on Cabrera’s single through the drawn-in infield.

CECIL MAKES HISTORY

Of the hundreds of pitchers who have worn the Blue Jays uniform these past 36 seasons, not one of them has done what Brett Cecil has accomplished over the last three weeks.

As he has done all season, Cecil came out of the bullpen in the seventh inning Wednesday and mowed down the heart of the Colorado lineup — Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer and Willin Rosario — in order. He has now faced 38 batters in a row without allowing a hit, the longest such streak in club history. David Cone, a starter, had held that distinction previously, going 36 batters in between allowing base hits back in June of 1995.

Cecil, who last gave up a hit to Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons on May 28, was a bit blindsided by the news he had set a record.

“I’m not too sure about it,” he said. “I wasn’t even aware it was a record. I’m not here to break records. I want to win a World Series.”

Cecil came to camp this spring with no guarantees. Indeed, he might have been considered a long shot to make the team. Now he has become among the most valuable pieces in a bullpen full of valuable pieces.

“I’ve always been confident in my stuff, even in spring training,” he said. “They’ve given me a chance. I appreciate it every day.”


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