April 07, 2014

TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays and the Houston Astros will not meet again this season after Sunday -- unless it is in the postseason.

The Blue Jays are in the American League East and the Astros are in the AL West, but each of the seven games between them in the regular season has postseason implications.

Toronto sits in a wild-card spot and entered Saturday a half game behind the Baltimore Orioles for first in the Al East.

The Astros entered Saturday two games removed from a wild-card spot.

The Blue Jays won three of four from the Astros last week in Houston and the teams will be playing a rubber match Sunday in a three-game series at Rogers Centre,

Toronto stopped the Astros' four-game winning streak on Saturday when they prevailed 4-2 on the strength of Aaron Sanchez's strong seven innings and a three-run home run by catcher Russell Martin.

Martin also threw out Jose Altuve trying to steal second base in the third inning. He caught Altuve trying to steal third Friday in Houston's 5-3 win.

Martin has thrown out three of the last six runners who tried to steal in the last six games, Before that, he had thrown out only five of 46 runners in his first 85 games of the season.

"Russ had a huge day on a day when we needed it," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.

Martin, who struggled at the plate earlier in the season, could be a key player for the Blue Jays down the stretch.

Since May 25, he has hit .340 (18-for-53) with runners in scoring position.

"Every game's different," Martin said after the game Saturday. "It's a long, grueling season. Some days you feel great and you don't do so well. Some days you don't feel good and you do pretty well. I didn't feel good waking up this morning. But I feel much better now."

Gibbons said the reason Martin played Saturday afternoon after a Friday night game is that Thursday was a day off.

Martin's home run came on a 3-and-2 slider from James Hoyt. The Astros are short in the bullpen with Ken Giles missing the series on paternity leave to be with his expectant wife.

"Well, he's got to pitch," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "A lot of times when you lose some guys, you've got to slot guys in some roles that are unaccustomed. He's more than equipped to get those guys out. He made one bad pitch today and it cost us three runs."

The Astros also will probably again be without outfielder Jake Marisnick who missed his third straight game with a right groin strain.

The will be sending out right-hander Mike Fiers (8-5, 4.46 ERA) to start the series finale on Sunday at Rogers Centre.

Fiers has faced Toronto once this season, taking the loss Aug. 4 after allowing five hits and two runs while striking out seven in six innings. Five days later he earned the win over the Minnesota Twins. He allowed three home runs among his five hits and was charged with four runs.

In three career outings, including two starts, against the Blue Jays, he is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA.

The Blue Jays will counter with right-hander Marcus Stroman (8-5, 4.76 ERA) who will be trying for his first win since July 20. In the three starts since, he is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA. He took the loss in Kansas City last Sunday when he allowed seven hits, two walks and three runs in five innings. The Royals won 7-1. In two career starts against the Astros, he is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA.

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