Martin's jack lifts Sanchez, Blue Jays over Astros
By Gregor Chisholm and Alykhan Ravjiani
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' offense was held in check for the second consecutive day until Russell Martin changed all of that with one swing of the bat.
Martin's three-run homer in the sixth inning proved to be the difference-maker in Toronto's 4-2 victory over the Astros on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre. That snapped Houston's win streak at four games and allowed the Blue Jays to take a half-game lead in the American League East over the Orioles, who lost in San Francisco on Saturday night.
"I wasn't sure I got enough of it, but as soon as I saw [Astros center fielder Teoscar Hernandez] running back and didn't look like he was going to catch it, that was good enough," Martin said. "When it went over the fence, even better."
Right-hander Aaron Sanchez picked up the victory for Toronto, moving to 12-2 this season after he limited the Astros to two runs over seven strong innings. Houston scored two in the first, but it would not score again off Sanchez, who scattered five hits and walked three while throwing 58 of his 95 pitches for strikes.
Jose Altuve tripled and doubled in the loss, while Carlos Correa also hit a two-run two-bagger, but other than that, it was a pretty quiet afternoon for the Astros' lineup. Right-hander Collin McHugh was the hard-luck loser after he departed in the sixth with a pair of runners on base protecting a 2-1 lead. McHugh ended up being charged with three of the four runs on five hits and two walks after Martin's homer off James Hoyt.
"It's a shame that the end of the outing will define the outing a little bit," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He worked pretty hard to get through his innings."
With the loss, Houston dropped to three games back of Boston for the second AL Wild Card spot. The Red Sox beat the D-backs on Saturday night.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Martin leaves his mark: With two outs in the sixth, Martin stepped to the plate with a pair of runners on base. Houston called upon Hoyt, who initially retired Troy Tulowitzki, but then surrendered a deep home run to center off Martin's bat. The three-run shot traveled a projected 424 feet and left his bat at 103 mph, according to Statcast™.
"Russ had a huge day on a day we needed it," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They held us in check pretty good. … It was starting to get late in the game there."
Early offense: The Astros wasted no time getting to Sanchez in the first. After an Alex Bregman single and an Altuve double put runners on second and third, Correa brought them both home with a two-run double down the right-field line. The double extended Correa's hitting streak to a season-high nine games and gave him 12 RBIs over his past five contests.
"The first inning was our best inning against Sanchez, and then I don't think we got back-to-back baserunners," Hinch said. "We had the two walks, but Altuve [was] thrown out stealing. No back-to-back baserunners after the first against a good pitcher is a tough way to score."
Bringer of rain: Donaldson provided one of the only early bright spots for Toronto when he hit a solo home run in the first. According to Statcast™, Donaldson's 28th homer of the year traveled a projected 411 feet and left his bat at 105 mph. It was his first home run since he hit two on Aug. 3, and it extended his hitting streak to six games.
Not this time: After an Altuve triple put the tying run aboard, Correa came to the plate with two outs in the eighth inning. Correa and Blue Jays reliever Jason Grilli engaged in a seven-pitch battle, with Grilli ultimately striking out the 21-year-old slugger with a well-placed four-seam fastball.
"It's a long, grueling season. Some days you feel great and you don't do so well. Some days you don't feel good and you end up doing well. Today was one of those days. I didn't feel great, honestly, waking up this morning, but I feel much better now." -- Martin
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Altuve's double in the first inning extended his road on-base streak to 43 consecutive games, making him just the second Astros player in franchise history to have a streak of that length. Jeff Bagwell reached base in 43 consecutive road games in 1998 and in a franchise-best 51 consecutive road games in '99.
Roberto Osuna tied the Major League record for most saves before a player's 22nd birthday with 46. That tied the mark originally set by former big leaguer Terry Forster, who had a 16-year career from 1971-86 and finished with 127 saves. Osuna does not turn 22 until Feb. 7, 2017. More >
Gibbons won a crucial challenge in the top of the second inning that had major implications on the early stages of Saturday's game. With a runner on second and one out, Tony Kemp hit a hard liner down the left-field line. The ball bounced in the vicinity of the left-field chalk and was ruled fair by third-base umpire Jeff Nelson, which allowed A.J. Reed to score from second. Gibbons asked for a review, it was later overturned and Reed was forced to head back to second base, where he would be stranded. Instead of a 3-1 lead for the Astros, the score remained 2-1.
"Replay helps us more than it hurts us, but that's where I wish they would have taken away replay for a day," Hinch said.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers (8-5, 4.46 ERA) takes the mound for the Astros in Sunday's series finale, with first pitch at 12:07 p.m. CT. The 31-year-old faced the Blue Jays on Aug. 4 at Minute Maid Park, and he was the tough-luck loser after surrendering two runs over six innings.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marcus Stroman (8-5, 4.76 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays conclude their three-game series against the Astros on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre, with the first pitch scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET. Stroman has allowed three earned runs or fewer in three of his past four starts.