Encarnacion's HR, 2 doubles, 6 RBIs lead Toronto over Texas
TORONTO (AP) As a player whose game traditionally picks up a few notches in May, Edwin Encarnacion sure sounded like a man who knew a big performance was just around the corner.
The 33-year-old homered, doubled twice and drove in six runs as the Toronto Blue Jays powered past the Texas Rangers 12-2 on Thursday night.
''When I have games like today I know my confidence gets up and I know my game is going to step up,'' he said.
Since 2013, Edwin Encarnacion leads the majors in home runs. His three-run, third-inning shot was his 202nd home run for the Blue Jays, tying former AL MVP George Bell for fifth on the club's career list.
The six RBIs were the most in a game by a Toronto player since Encarnacion had nine against Detroit last Aug. 29. It was the third time he had six-plus RBIs, tying Bell and Adam Lind for the franchise record.
Toronto set season highs for runs and hits (15). The Blue Jays were the top-scoring team in the majors last year, reaching double figures in runs 27 times.
''We have a great offense, so I think it's just normal for us,'' Encarnacion said.
Kevin Pillar doubled twice, singled and had two RBIs for Toronto, while Josh Donaldson scored three times.
The Blue Jays have now won three in a row. They wrapped up their seventh consecutive series win against the Rangers, the team they beat in the AL Division Series last year.
''We've been waiting on that outburst,'' manager John Gibbons said. ''We really did what we do best tonight.''
J.A. Happ gave up one run and six hits in seven innings. He joined Marcus Stroman at 4-0 to mark just the second time in team history that two starters began the season with 4-0 records.
The 33-year-old Happ has permitted no more than three runs in 16 consecutive starts since Aug. 14 last year, when he was with Seattle.
Derek Holland (3-2) was tagged for five runs in the first and chased during a six-run third. The lefty's 16 1/3-inning scoreless streak at Rogers Centre coming into the game was a distant memory by the time he was given the hook.
''Missed spots, missed locations, all in all just a terrible performance by myself,'' he said.
Manager Jeff Banister admitted that his starter's fastball just wasn't working. And while they tried to change things up, the Blue Jays were largely keyed in at the plate.
''He threw some breaking balls and some changeups in those sequences and still couldn't find the range with it,'' Banister said. ''Those guys were on most all his pitches.''
The loss to the Blue Jays was the Rangers' third straight road loss and seventh in their last eight away from home. Though understandably concerned by the slump, Banister said his team may ''have to switch up the routine a bit'' to break out of its funk.
ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END
Holland's 2 2-3-inning outing brought to an end the Rangers' 28-game streak of their starters going five-plus innings, the longest season-opening streak in team history. Going back to last year, the run lasted 29 games in total, tied for the third longest ever in club history.
Rangers: SS Elvis Andrus was given the day off to rest his sore lower back. He had played 18 consecutive games before Thursday. ... There is no timetable for OF Josh Hamilton to return to rehab assignment after he was removed from a game last Saturday with discomfort on his twice-operated-on left knee. He was eligible to return to the assignment Friday, but instead is working out the Texas Metroplex Institute for Sports Medicine in Arlington.
Blue Jays: 2B Devon Travis played in the field for the first time since off-season shoulder surgery during extended spring training as the Blue Jays played the Yankees. In four innings, he handled two plays without any problems. ''Shoulder feels great,'' Travis said. ''I don't even think about it. Getting ready for baseball.'' At the plate, he went 0 for 3.
Rangers: LHP Cole Hamels (3-0, 3.30) gets the start against Tigers RHP Jordan Zimmermann (5-0, 0.54) as the Rangers wrap up their seven-game road swing with a three-game set in Detroit. Hamels is coming off his shortest start as a Ranger in Sunday's 9-3 loss to the Angels, where he lasted five innings, giving up a season-high four runs and four walks.
Blue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman (4-0, 3.77) will face Dodgers RHP Kenta Maeda (3-1, 1.41) in the opener of a three-game interleague series in Toronto. Stroman faces the Dodgers for the first time in his career.