Happ, Blue Jays blank Tigers, win 7th straight

Happ, Blue Jays blank Tigers, win 7th straight

TORONTO -- The All-Star break might be approaching a little bit too quickly for the Blue Jays, who are suddenly the hottest team in baseball.

Toronto picked up its seventh consecutive victory with a 6-0 win over the Tigers on Friday night at Rogers Centre. Left-hander J.A. Happ improved to 12-3 by tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings, while Edwin Encarnacion came through with his 23rd home run of the season.

• Happ matches Halladay with 12 first-half wins

Encarnacion finished 1-for-3 with a walk and three RBIs, giving him a Major League-leading 80. Center fielder Kevin Pillar added a key RBI double in the seventh, and Michael Saunders had a pair of hits just a few hours after he was named the winner of the American League's Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote.

Saunders on ASG Final Vote win

"We've seen it before, but it's pretty unbelievable watching him do what he does," Happ said of Encarnacion. "Just kind of sit back in awe sometimes. I'm glad he's on our side, no doubt."

Right-hander Mike Pelfrey took the loss despite limiting the Blue Jays' offense to one run on six hits over six innings. Most of the damage was done against Tigers reliever Kyle Ryan, who allowed three earned runs on two hits and a walk while retiring just a single batter.

Pelfrey's solid one-run effort

"Pelfrey pitched well. Happ pitched well," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "They got to our bullpen. We didn't do much offensively."

• Pelfrey proving dependable for Tigers

The Blue Jays pulled within one game of Baltimore for first place in the AL East after the Orioles lost to the Angels on Friday night. Detroit has now dropped four of its last five games to fall four games back of the first AL Wild Card spot, which currently belongs to Toronto.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Ed-Wing: Toronto was clinging to a 1-0 lead until the club erupted for four runs in the seventh. Justin Smoak started the rally with a leadoff single and then scored on a double to the gap in right-center field by Pillar. Later in the inning, Encarnacion put the game away with a three-run shot to straightaway center field. According to Statcast™, Encarnacion's 23rd dinger of the year landed an estimated 446 feet away and left his bat at 109 mph.

"This month and June, our offense kind of really started to score in bunches," Happ said. "You felt like it was a matter of time. It's fun to watch. I feel like we're in it every night. That makes it fun."

Help at the hot corner: The artificial surface at Rogers Centre seemed like a perfect chance for the Tigers' Nick Castellanos to show off his fadeaway bounce throw across the infield. Instead, he took advantage of the infield dirt for a diving stop to his left to rob Josh Donaldson of a third-inning single. Castellanos also started a fifth-inning double play on Donaldson with runners at the corners and nobody out, turning a threat off Pelfrey into a one-run inning.

Castellanos' diving play

"Ball was sinking, and that's my bread and butter," Pelfrey said. "It was sinking again tonight and guys made good plays behind me. Could've been a lot worse if we didn't have those, so I appreciate those."

The escape artist: Happ didn't allow a run, but he needed some help from the bullpen before the book could be closed on his pitching line. The veteran lefty departed with a pair of runners on base and two outs in the sixth. Right-hander Jesse Chavez entered the 1-0 ballgame and surrendered a single to load the bases before he got Mike Aviles to ground out. Chavez also pitched a scoreless seventh to buy enough time for Encarnacion and the Blue Jays' offense to add insurance.

Happ's scoreless 5 2/3 innings

"Can't forget the job Chavez did," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Happ ran out of gas after walking [Justin] Upton. He gave up the hit and then got the big out. That's what you win with, pitching."

Maybin denied by the bag: Donaldson had his own highlight play at the hot corner to end a budding Tigers threat in the fifth. Cameron Maybin looked like he had a chance for a hit on a ground ball down the line with a runner on, but the ball skipped off the third-base bag. Donaldson barehanded it in the air and fired across the infield for the third out.

Donaldson's barehanded play

QUOTABLE
"What is he, 12-3? That's not by mistake. I don't care what kind of run support he's getting. Putting up that kind of record through the first half says he's throwing the really well." -- Tigers catcher James McCann, on Happ

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Encarnacion's 80 RBIs are tied for the third most in Blue Jays history prior to the break. Carlos Delgado had 97 and Vernon Wells had 84 in 2003, while Joe Carter had 80 in 1994. Encarnacion's 80 RBIs also are the most by a Major Leaguer prior to the break since Miguel Cabrera had 95 in 2013.

"I didn't ever think I'd see anything close to [the 2003 season], but Eddie is having a heck of a year," said Gibbons, who was on Toronto's coaching staff in '03. "He crushed that ball. He has been a big part of this team for a number of years. Who knows where he ends up, but he's making a great name for himself."

WHAT'S NEXT
Tigers: Left-hander Matt Boyd will be recalled to make his sixth start for the Tigers this season, facing his old organization on Saturday at 1:07 p.m. ET in the third game of the four-game set. Boyd tossed 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball against the Jays on June 7 at Comerica Park, but walked five.

Blue Jays: Right-hander Aaron Sanchez (9-1, 2.94 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their four-game series against the Tigers on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre. Sanchez carried a perfect game into the sixth inning during his last start against the Royals, and he earned the win after scattering three hits over eight innings.

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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.