Pillar, Travis lengthen Blue Jays' lineup

Pillar, Travis lengthen Blue Jays' lineup

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' big bats have stayed consistent throughout the team's torrid month of July, but the production from the bottom part of the order has also been instrumental in Toronto's climb atop the American League East.

Kevin Pillar and Devon Travis recorded two hits apiece and drove in five runs in the Blue Jays' 9-1 rout of the Orioles on Saturday at Rogers Centre. Toronto increased its Major League-leading run total to 252 since June 11, and a large part of that has been the ability of the bottom of the lineup to set the table.

"Well, that's key, especially the way we stack our lineup," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "The hitters at the top with [Jose Bautista], [Josh Donaldson] and [Edwin Encarnacion], those guys are good hitters in those spots. When the guys at the bottom get on, our guys at the top can drive them in. That's kind of the way we're set up."

Pillar matched a career high with four RBIs on a pair of two-out, two-run doubles in the fifth and seventh innings to open up an eight-run lead. The Blue Jays' center fielder has hit .306 (26-for-85) in July, in addition to providing his usual assortment of defensive plays.

Blue Jays' seven-run 5th inning

"That was a big key in our success last year -- having the guys at the bottom of the order come up with big hits, get on base and turn our lineup over," Pillar said. "The guys at the bottom of the order are guys that typically wouldn't hit at the bottom of other teams' orders. But you look at the guys in front of us, and that's just where we fit in this lineup. When our number is called, we're just ready to go."

The return of Travis has also played an instrumental role. Travis has long been thought of as the Blue Jays' leadoff hitter of the future, and he has quietly come around since a slow start after returning from the disabled list due to left shoulder surgery.

The electric second baseman battled in Tuesday's come-from-behind victory over the Padres with a 14-pitch at-bat in the 12th. He picked up his 10th multi-hit game in his last 25 contests on Saturday, putting the Blue Jays on the board with a solo homer to start a seven-run fifth inning. The outing raised Travis' season average to .291 -- second only on the team to Donaldson -- and his OPS to .801.

Travis' solo dinger

"Our lineup is filled with professional hitters from top to bottom," Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said. "There's no easy outs. There's no easy innings. He's probably the best ninth hitter in the league right now."

"I feel [Travis] could be a two-hole hitter on a lot of teams. He's got a professional approach. If you make a mistake, he's going to make you pay. He fouled off some tough pitches in the at-bat, saw a fastball over the plate and took care of it. "

Alykhan Ravjiani is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.