Happ wins 9th straight decision as Blue Jays beat Astros 4-1
HOUSTON (AP) Despite striking out 61 times and only scoring 10 runs in four games, the Toronto Blue Jays found a way to take three of four from the Houston Astros.
J.A. Happ won his ninth consecutive decision, Edwin Encarnacion reached 30 home runs for the fifth straight season and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Houston Astros 4-1 on Thursday night for their eighth win in 11 games.
''It's been a tough place for us to play; we won three games and had a chance to win all four of them,'' Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. ''So we feel good about that. Not a lot of offense on either side but I think that's because the pitching was so good on both sides. We got some big hits and won some close games.''
Happ (15-3), who already has set his career high for wins, retired 12 of his first 13 batters and allowed one run and four hits in six innings. He is 9-0 with a 2.49 ERA in 10 starts since losing at Detroit on June 6.
''It's nice to have a couple quick innings,'' Happ said. ''Hopefully the less pitches they see the better you're going to be for the later at-bats when you're turning the lineup over or trying to at least two, three or four times. I think that was huge to be able to have something left to get out of that jam.''
Happ struck out six and walked none, and Joaquin Benoit, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna completed the five-hitter. After walking rookie Alex Bregman leading off the ninth, Osuna struck out Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Evan Gattis for his 24th save in 26 chances.
After being given a day off Wednesday, Bregman was 1 for 4 with a sixth-inning single. The second overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft, is hitting .056 (2 for 36) since he was brought up July 25.
Houston pitchers struck out a major league-record 61 in the four-game series, three more than the previous mark set by Cincinnati pitchers against San Diego in 2008. Astros pitchers set a record with 52 strikeouts in a three-game series against Baltimore from May 24-26.
Mike Fiers (7-5) gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings, walking none and tying his second high with seven strikeouts.
Devon Travis doubled leading off the first inning for the first of his three hits and scored on Josh Donaldson's groundout - the first run in the series that did not score on a solo home run.
''I felt good tonight,'' Travis said. ''I found out once again for the millionth time that this is a really humbling game. It's always great to come out here and help your team with a ball game.''
On the previous pitch, Smoak took an 0-2 curveball on the low, outside corner and stepped toward the dugout thinking it was strike three, only to have plate umpire Todd Tichenor call the pitch a ball.
Toronto doubled the lead in the fifth when Justin Smoak swung over a curveball in the dirt for strike three and the ball hit off Gattis and bounced away for a wild pitch that allowed Russell Martin to score from third.
Tyler White hit a run-scoring double in the bottom half for his first RBI since June 10.
The Astros have lost eight of their last 10 games, getting outscored 47-21.
''We all hate it collectively because we don't like going through this rut,'' Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. ''I think the guys are handling it like pros. We believe in this group and they believe in themselves, but sometimes, you need to have a good day to realize all the work and extra conversations are worth it. It's the big leagues and it's a game of adjustments - it's not a try-hard league.''
Travis singled in a run against Will Harris in the eighth, and Encarnacion connected against James Hoyt in the ninth for his 298th home run.
''It feels good,'' Encarnacion said about being close to 300. ''I know it's going to happen but I wish it could happen with people on base so we could win some games.''
Blue Jays: SS Troy Tulowitzki went 1 for 4 after missing three games after breaking his right thumb when hit by a pitch from Baltimore's Chris Tillman on Sunday.
Astros: INF Marwin Gonzalez (right hand soreness) was held out of the starting lineup but pinch hit in the seventh inning and grounded out. Gonzalez's right-handed swing is less comfortable than left-handed swing, Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. ... Luis Valbuena (right hamstring strain) is taking part in any baseball activity but continues daily treatment ... INF Carlos Gomez (right hamstring strain) was 0 for 2 with two strikeouts as the designated hitter after not playing in five of the last six games.
Blue Jays: LHP Francisco Liriano (6-11), acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, is to make his Toronto debut on Friday at Kansas City.
Astros: LHP Dallas Keuchel (6-11) is slated to start at home Friday against Texas.