By Brian McTaggart and Gregor Chisholm
HOUSTON -- After relying exclusively on solo home runs in the first three games of their series against the Astros at Minute Maid Park, the Blue Jays eked out some runs in a 4-1 win in the finale Thursday night.
"It's absolutely incredible ... to score 10 runs in a series and to come out with three of four says something special about our pitching," said Travis, whose team pulled even with Baltimore for first place in the AL East. "They've been incredible all year and it's just a pleasure to play behind them."
The reeling Astros, who have lost eight of 10 games to fall 6 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the AL West, managed a run in the fifth on an RBI double by Tyler White. Houston has scored seven runs in its last six games and hasn't scored more than two runs in a game since Friday's loss at Detroit.
"We're searching for solutions," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We're a better offense than this. And sometimes you go in a few ruts individually and sometimes you go through it collectively, and right now the collectively part is pretty painful. You look at the other side and I know Toronto's a good offense and you hold them to 10 runs in a four-game series and you feel good about it, but we didn't score near enough to split the series or win the series."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED The 6-4-3: Toronto was clinging to a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning when Astros cleanup hitter Carlos Correa stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and one out. Happ seemed to be in trouble against one of the league's top young players, but he managed to escape the jam by inducing a double-play grounder to shortstop. The throw to Travis at second base was a little low, but Justin Smoak managed to dig the ball out of the dirt as the Blue Jays got Correa at first base by an inch or two.
"I thought he started laboring in that sixth inning, but he got that big ground-ball double play," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That's kind of what he's turned into: a guy that can get ground balls. In the past, he couldn't really do that anymore, he was looking for a strikeout or a popup."
Nice night for the Great White: White started the season hot for the Astros, earning AL Player of the Week honors in early April, but has struggled mightily since then, at one point getting demoted to Triple-A Fresno after batting .211 in 53 games with Houston. The Astros' offense was lacking Thursday, but White put together solid showing, notching a single and an RBI double in three at-bats. It was White's first multi-hit game since May 30.
"Just going up [to the plate], trying to be confident," White said. "Just [doing] what I did when I went down, take that here and be the hitter I know I can be." More >
Starting early: Travis was installed as Toronto's leadoff hitter on Wednesday, and the following night he came through with a leadoff double to the gap in left-center field. He advanced to third on a deep fly ball to center by Jose Bautista and scored on a grounder by Donaldson. Travis was put into the leadoff spot because Gibbons wanted to get more runners on base for the heart of his batting order. It worked out, and Travis also came through with an RBI single in the eighth.
"We definitely have a lineup there in the middle that any time the ball can leave the yard. It's up to me and a few of the other guys just to do our best job of getting on base," Travis said. "Whether it's advancing to the next base via wild pitch or taking the extra base on a single, it's something we have to take a lot of pride in for the big guys."
Can't convert: For the second night in a row, Jose Altuve and Correa had a runner in scoring position but were unable to muster a key hit to tie the game. Trailing 2-1, George Springer and Alex Bregman led off the sixth with a walk and single, respectively, but Altuve flied out on a full count to center field. Correa then grounded into the 6-4-3 double play with Springer on third to end the inning.
"It's been tough," Correa said. "It's been really hard to get going. Obviously, we have not been able to score runs early in the game or late in the game."
"I told [Marcus] Stroman he started it off with that great game he had, and we tried to follow suit." -- Happ, on a pitching staff that in the four-game series walked two and allowed five runs
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• The Astros reached a franchise record with 61 strikeouts by their pitchers in a series. The 61 strikeouts also set a Major League record for a four-game series.
• Travis went 3-for-4 to pick up the eighth three-hit game of his career. That's tied for the third most in franchise history for a player's first 116 games. Bob Bailor owns the Toronto record with 14 three-hit games under those same guidelines from 1975-77.
UNDER REPLAY REVIEW
Gibbons won his challenge in the top of the eighth inning. With one out, Kevin Pillar took off for third base on an attempted steal but he was called out by umpire Bill Miller. Gibbons asked for a review and the call on the field was overturned.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Left-hander Francisco Liriano (6-11, 5.46 ERA) will make his Blue Jays debut when Toronto opens a three-game series against the Royals on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. Liriano has walked 5.5 batters per nine innings this season, but he will try to turn things around with his new team after being reunited with Martin at catcher. First pitch is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET.
Astros: The Astros open a three-game series against the AL West-leading Rangers at 7:10 p.m. CT Friday at Minute Maid Park, sending lefty Dallas Keuchel (6-11, 4.86 ERA) to the mound. The Rangers have won nine of 10 from Houston this year and have opened up a 6 1/2-game lead in the AL West.