Hot start, sharp Price help Jays maintain lead

Hot start, sharp Price help Jays maintain lead

ATLANTA -- David Price tossed seven strong innings, while Edwin Encarnacion reached base five times in his return to the lineup as the Blue Jays coasted to a 9-1 victory over the Braves on Wednesday night at Turner Field.

Toronto maintained its three-game over Yankees for first place in the American League after New York pulled out a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay. The Blue Jays pulled within two games of the Royals for the top record in the AL after Kansas City lost, 5-1, to the Indians.

Right-hander Shelby Miller took the loss after he allowed five runs (four earned) over 3 2/3 innings in his shortest outing of the season. His streak of winless starts now sits at 22, despite the fact that he surrendered three earned runs or fewer in 15 of those outings. Miller allowed seven hits and two walks, while striking out three and throwing 53 of his 83 pitches for strikes.

Price had another quality start and saw his season ERA drop to 2.42 in 30 outings. He allowed one run in the first on Freddie Freeman's sac fly, but quickly settled in after that and escaped several jams en route to allowing two runs or fewer for the 18th time in his past 22 starts. Price allowed six hits and three walks, while striking out nine.

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"He labored a little bit early," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I think he was a little bit off with his location in the early innings, and then he kicked it in pretty good and battled. I don't think it was as easy of an outing as he made it look. They were aggressive with him early, but he did what we brought him over here for again and he has been great."

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Encarnacion was one of the standouts on offense for the Blue Jays as he returned from a two-game absence to post a three-hit night. Left fielder Ben Revere also got in on the action with a pair of hits, while Russell Martin added a late two-run homer to go along with a two-run double in the first inning.

Martin's two-run homer

The Braves have lost 40 of their past 51 games, including 25 of their past 29.

"It's tough as a team and as a group to go out in the second or third inning and you're already down 4 or 5-0," Braves outfielder Nick Swisher said. "It's tough because instead of being in attack mode, you're kind of on your heels a little bit, saying, 'All right, maybe I've got to take a few pitches here because [our pitcher] just had a long inning.' Next thing you know, you're down 0-2 in the count. So, for us, I think we need to keep that aggressive mentality and not worry about the score."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Piling on early: The Blue Jays got to Miller early and often with four hits in the first, including an RBI double by Bautista and Martin's two-run two-bagger. Ryan Goins also added a sacrifice fly in the frame as Toronto jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Price even had to take the mound. It was the 52nd time this season the Blue Jays scored at least four runs in a single inning.

Bautista's RBI double

"Bringer of Runs? I'll definitely welcome that nickname," Price said in reference to the Blue Jays scoring five first-inning runs in his last start and four more on Wednesday. "This offense scores, everybody knows that. It's the best offense in all of baseball. I'll take as many runs as I can get."

Dubious franchise record: Though he has been the Braves' best starter throughout the season, Miller now shares the franchise record for consecutive winless starts (22) with Carl Morton (1975-76). The Braves once again provided the meager run support that has blemished this maddening stretch. But Miller did not look like himself as he surrendered hits, including a pair of doubles, to four of the first five batters he faced. After holding the Blue Jays scoreless in the second and third innings, he issued two walks, committed a balk and surrendered another double in the fourth.

"He left some balls out over the plate and didn't locate," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "With a good hitting club like [the Blue Jays], if you don't locate, you're going to hit, and that's what happened today. This might have been the first time I haven't seen him locate in a long, long time." More >

Putting the game on ice: Toronto's lineup added another run in the fourth and then put the game away in the fifth with two more. Goins led off the inning with a walk and advanced to third on a double by Kevin Pillar. One run then scored on a grounder by Cliff Pennington, and Revere drove home the second with a double to center. Goins finished 1-for-2 with a sacrifice fly and a pair of walks. Since becoming an everyday player on July 26, he has 28 walks in 42 games.

Revere's RBI double

QUOTABLE
"He's one of those guys when you get in two-strike counts, he's got stuff to put you away. He's a competitor. He's one of the best in the league. For him to be [with the Blue Jays], that's a huge pickup for them. He's definitely going to help them down the stretch." -- Swisher, on Price

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Miller has posted a 3.68 ERA during his winless streak that dates back to May 23. Wednesday marked the seventh time during this span that he has allowed four or more earned runs, but it also marked the 16th time within this span that he received one run or less of support.

Encarnacion has reached base in 43 consecutive games, which is the longest streak by a player on a Canadian team since Tim Raines in 1985 (44). More >

Encarnacion impresses in return

Price is the new American League leader in ERA at 2.42. Houston's Dallas Keuchel was the previous leader, but his ERA soared to 2.56 after he surrendered nine runs in a start against the Rangers on Wednesday.

ANDRELTON RARITY
Andrelton Simmons committed an error in each of the first two innings. This was the National League Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop's fourth career two-error game and first since July 5, 2014.

WHAT'S NEXT
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marco Estrada will take the mound when the Blue Jays close out their three-game series against the Braves on Thursday night at Turner Field, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:10 p.m. Estrada surpassed his career high in innings pitched during his last start, but one concern is that he has allowed 10 home runs over his previous six outings.

Braves: Atlanta will counter with rookie Matt Wisler, who will be looking to build off the six solid innings he completed against the Mets on Friday. The rookie right-hander entered that outing having posted a 9.49 ERA over his past seven starts.

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Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.