By Gregor Chisholm and Austin Laymance
ANAHEIM -- When the Blue Jays needed J.A. Happ the most, the veteran left-hander found a way to deliver.
Happ allowed two runs over six-plus innings to pick up his 19th victory in the Blue Jays' 7-2 win over the Angels on Thursday night at Angel Stadium. Toronto kept pace with first-place Boston while also moving into a tie with Baltimore for the first American League Wild Card spot.
The Blue Jays remained two games back in the AL East after the Red Sox picked up a dramatic 7-5 walk-off victory over the Yankees. The Orioles came up just short in their ninth-inning rally in a 7-6 loss to the Rays. The Tigers fell two games back of the Wild Card with a 5-1 loss to the Twins.
The 33-year-old Happ limited Los Angeles to three hits and three walks while striking out three in his 19th quality start. He also became the first Toronto pitcher to win 19 games since Roy Halladay had 19 in 2008. Happ is one away from tying David Wells' record for most wins by a Blue Jays left-hander, set in 2000.
"It looked like we wanted that one bad out there tonight," Happ said. "We battled all night and got some big add-on runs at the end. Really good at-bats. I was just trying to get us back in the dugout, as usual, that's the goal. Good team win for sure."
Russell Martin led the way on offense with a gamebreaking three-run homer that made it 5-0. Designated hitter Josh Donaldson went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles, two walks and a pair of runs scored in his return from a hip injury, which caused him to miss this week's three-game series against Tampa Bay.
"We're at that point of our season, we need some wins," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Everything is important. It's a great way to start our road trip. We'll go out there and jump on Dickey's back [Friday] and see what the heck happens. No better way to start it."
Angels right-hander David Wright was the hard-luck loser. Wright limited the Blue Jays to a pair of runs through the first five innings before leaving in the sixth with one on and nobody out. Wright was charged with three runs on four hits and three walks in his second start.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Martin's moment: Toronto's offense was in the midst of another relatively quiet night until Martin changed all of that in the sixth. With one out, Martin lifted a 3-1 fastball from Jose Valdez over the wall in left field. According to Statcast™, Martin's 19th homer was projected to travel 391 feet and left his bat at 111 mph. The veteran catcher had seven home runs on Aug. 1, but has hit 12 since.
"Driving in runs always feels good, especially when you have a guy like Happ there pitching his butt off, putting up zeros for us, just widen the lead, give us a little breathing room, it gives us a chance to relax and play the game and have fun with it," Martin said. More >
Simmons stays hot: Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons returned with a bang, going 2-for-3 with a two-run homer in his first action since missing three games with a bruised right hand. Simmons singled to right in his first at-bat since Sunday to extend his hit streak to nine games, during which he has three homers among six extra-base hits.
"Hitting homers makes everything a little better," said Simmons, who jammed the same hand during his second at-bat of the game. More >
The return: Donaldson returned from a three-game absence because of a hip injury and immediately made his presence felt. He walked in the first and then hit a leadoff double to spark a two-run rally in the fourth. Donaldson hit a sharp liner into the left-center-field gap, and two batters later, came around to score on an RBI single to right by Jose Bautista. Martin capped things off with a sacrifice fly to left field as part of his four-RBI night.
"I felt better today," Donaldson said. "I was able to work some at-bats and take some walks, too, on some pretty tough pitches. Up and down [the lineup], I felt like we had some pretty quality at-bats for the most part." More >
Pujols gets going: Angels slugger Albert Pujols went 2-for-4 for his first game with multiple hits since Sept. 6. Pujols entered Thursday in a 1-for-24 (.042) skid as he continues to play through plantar fasciitis in both feet.
"That was an awesome play. Happ is probably like the only guy in the world who does that and stone-cold faces it, acts like nothing really happened. That was awesome. I was hoping I would get a reaction from him but he didn't do anything. He was all business as usual." -- Martin, on Happ's backhanded, no-look grab with his glove on a comebacker in the third
"He always tells us he's got more pop and he's showing it right now." -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia, on Simmons
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Toronto's fourth-inning rally included consecutive hits by Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Bautista. It was the first time since Aug. 3 that Toronto's trio of sluggers recorded consecutive hits.
The Blue Jays are 27-3 in their past 30 games when Martin homers, dating back to last season.
TROUT HITS CENTURY MARK IN WALKS Mike Trout walked twice to reach 100 for the season, the most in the Majors. Trout is the 10th player in AL history with two seasons of at least 100 walks before his age-25 season.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (9-14, 4.60 ERA) will take the mound for the first time since Sept. 5 when the Blue Jays continue their four-game series vs. the Angels on Friday at 10:05 p.m. ET at Angel Stadium. Dickey faced the Angels on Aug. 23 and allowed two runs over 6 2/3 innings en route to a victory.
Angels:Jered Weaver (11-11, 5.25) takes the mound for the Angels on Friday at 7:05 p.m. PT in the second of a four-game series against the Blue Jays. Weaver has won his past three decisions.