By Gregor Chisholm and Alykhan Ravjiani
TORONTO -- Russell Martin hit a deep single to right field as the Blue Jays walked off against the Rangers for the second consecutive night with a 4-3 victory on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.
Martin stepped to the plate with one out and the bases loaded against right-handed reliever Tony Barnette. Toronto's veteran catcher worked the count to 1-1 before he lifted a deep fly ball to the warning track in right field. The ball fell beyond the reach of Nomar Mazara, but either way, the game was going to end as pinch-runner Ezequiel Carrera easily scored from third.
"He needed that, we needed that more as a team, but he has always hit," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of his struggling catcher, who is batting .169 this season. "He's going to hit, but that can do wonders for you, I don't care who you are."
Edwin Encarnacion opened the ninth with a single up the middle off Barnette. Justin Smoak then walked to put two runners on, but Troy Tulowitzki then popped out to first base. That gave Texas an opening, but Barnette issued a six-pitch walk to Kevin Pillar, which loaded the bases and set the table for Martin.
Toronto right-hander Aaron Sanchez got off to a rough start by allowing three runs on six hits over the first two innings. He appeared to be in for a short night but quickly turned things around and faced two batters over the minimum during the next five frames. He took a no-decision after allowing the three runs on seven hits over seven innings.
Texas' Colby Lewis also took a no-decision despite a strong night on the mound. He scattered five hits over seven innings and his lone major mistake came in the sixth inning when Encarnacion hit a two-run shot to left.
"They're professional hitters and that's what they're supposed to do -- hit mistakes," Lewis said. "That was a mistake."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Bullpen blues: For a second consecutive night, the Rangers' bullpen suffered a walk-off loss. Barnette loaded the bases with one out in the ninth before Martin punched a ball down the right-field line past the outstretched arm of Mazara. Barnette, who picked up his first Major League win Monday, was scored upon for the first time since giving up two runs April 21 vs Houston. More >
Ed-Wing: Encarnacion got the Blue Jays back into the game in the sixth inning with a two-run shot to left field. According to Statcast™, Encarnacion's fourth homer of the year was projected to travel 377 feet, and the towering fly ball left his bat at 106 mph. Encarnacion entered the game with just one hit in his previous 21 at-bats, and the home run was his first since April 26.
"The game was kind of just blah until that point," Gibbons said. "Colby was shutting us down pretty good, but we have some guys who can do that. We can strike back in a hurry with the long ball. When Eddie gets going, you can really ride him and everybody can jump on. He's due."
Jumping ahead: The Rangers opened the scoring for the third consecutive game, this time in the top of the first inning with a pair of runs. After Rougned Odor doubled and Mazara singled, Adrian Beltre cued a shot past third baseman Josh Donaldson to bring home the first Texas run. A fantastic diving play from Tulowitzki on Prince Fielder's grounder retired Beltre at second and temporarily kept the Rangers at bay, but a forceout from Ian Desmond brought home Mazara and capped off the two-run frame.
Snapping the skid:Jose Bautista entered the game riding an 0-for-14 skid at the plate and he was just 2-for-25 with one home run over his previous seven games. That changed in the first inning, when he pulled a single through the left side of the infield to score Michael Saunders, who led off with a ground-rule double to right. The RBI single cut Texas' early lead to 2-1.
"Just trying to change something up just to see what would happen. So far, so good. So the mustache is staying." -- Martin on shaving his beard earlier this week after a slow start to the season at the plate
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Blue Jays hit 15 home runs over their first 17 games but have since hit 19 over their previous 12 dating to April 22. The 19 home runs over that span lead the American League.
Texas dropped to 0-5 in walk-off games this season and 0-3 in games that were tied after the eighth inning.
WHAT'S NEXT Rangers: Left-hander Derek Holland (3-1, 2.48 ERA) gets the call for the Rangers in the finale of their four-game series against the Blue Jays on Thursday night at Rogers Centre at 6:07 p.m. CT. Holland pitched six scoreless innings in his last outing, a 7-2 win over the Angels on Saturday.
Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (3-0, 2.76 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays close out their series against the Rangers. Happ has yet to allow more than three earned runs in an outing this season, and he has tossed five consecutive quality starts. One reason behind the success: He finished his last start ranked second in the AL in ground-ball double plays.