After a rough first game following the All-Star break, the Toronto Blue Jays showed they still have a lot of pop in their lineup.
Right-hander Carlos Villanueva is trying to show he belongs in the rotation.
Villanueva makes his third start of the season Sunday when Toronto concludes its season series with the Cleveland Indians.
Held to five singles by Justin Masterson while getting shut out at home for the first time this season in Friday’s 1-0 loss, the Blue Jays (44-44) pounded out 13 hits in Saturday’s 11-9 victory.
Edwin Encarnacion had his first two-homer game of the season, Yunel Escobar also went deep and Adam Lind finished 4 for 5 with four RBIs to improve to 6 for 8 in the series.
“Just an outstanding offensive day,” manager John Farrell said.
Toronto goes for its first series victory since June 22-24 in Miami with Villanueva (3-0, 3.05 ERA) facing the Indians (45-42) for the third time this season. He threw 3 1-3 innings of scoreless relief in two appearances at Cleveland in April.
Villanueva, though, has made his last two appearances as a starter, striking out 13 and walking one in 11 innings while going 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA. He’s confident he can keep delivering after elbow problems plagued him last season when he was inserted into the rotation.
“The fact that I prepared my body and my mind (in the offseason) for the long haul this year definitely makes a difference,” Villanueva told the Blue Jays’ official website after striking out a career high-tying seven in a 4-1 win over Kansas City on July 4. “I know it has only been two starts but I felt magnificent today.”
Villanueva might need some of his best stuff against Indians center fielder Michael Brantley, who is batting .447 (21 for 47) with three homers and 10 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak. Brantley recorded his third consecutive three-hit game Saturday with a two-run homer during Cleveland’s five-run eighth inning.
“The guys battled and had some good at-bats late in the game,” manager Manny Acta said after his team’s three-game road winning streak ended. “Unfortunately, pitching is the name of the game and we just didn’t pitch.”
Sunday’s scheduled starter Derek Lowe (8-6, 4.43) threw six innings of three-run ball in a 12-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on July 4, but the sinkerballer is 2-4 with a 7.53 ERA in his last eight starts.
Lowe has been awful away from Progressive Field during this stretch, going 0-4 with an 8.88 ERA in five starts.
“Obviously, the road has been a struggle,” the right-hander told the Indians’ official website.
Lowe, who has one of the highest run-support averages in the majors at 6.46, allowed two unearned runs over seven innings in a 4-3 home win over Toronto on April 8 to help Cleveland salvage the finale of that three-game series.
Lind is 2 for 9 versus Lowe, while Encarnacion has two hits – a homer and a double – in 12 at-bats.