Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Blue Jays turn it up to 11

Match best-ever win streak, go for record 12th tonight

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It was just that kind of day for Orioles starting pitcher Freddie Garcia.

CHRIS YOUNG / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

It was just that kind of day for Orioles starting pitcher Freddie Garcia.

TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays didn't hang their heads when they struggled at the start of the season.

The mood remained upbeat despite regular losses. The players knew they had the potential to turn things around and fulfil the high expectations.

Toronto took another big step in its attempt to get into contention in the American League East by completing a three-game sweep of division rival Baltimore with a 13-5 rout of the Orioles on Sunday. The Blue Jays also tied a franchise high with their 11th straight win.

The streak has reinvigorated the team's fanbase, the players are all smiles and the early-season woes seem like a distant memory.

"It was a battle early on, we all know that," said Jays manager John Gibbons. "We always figured it was just a matter of time before we started playing better. And (the slump) lasted longer than we expected, but that's all behind us now.

"We're rolling along right now."

Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus homered and veteran right-hander Josh Johnson worked into the seventh inning for his first win of the season. Jose Bautista put the game out of reach with a bases-clearing double in the seventh inning to the delight of the sellout crowd of 45,214 on a hot, sunny afternoon at Rogers Centre.

The Blue Jays (38-36) moved two games over the .500 mark and are now just five games behind first-place Boston. Encarnacion drove in four runs and had three of Toronto's 14 hits.

"I've been waiting for this since the season started," he said. "I believe in this team. I knew that things had to change, that things had to become good for us. So this is the way right now.

"We'll enjoy it, we'll enjoy the moment. I'm not surprised (by) this. I know this team is good and I know we can do it."

The Blue Jays have won 11 games in a row on two other occasions: June 2-13, 1987 and Aug. 27-Sept. 7, 1998. They will go for the franchise record tonight at Tampa Bay.

Baltimore (42-34) loaded the bases in the opening inning but Johnson (1-2) escaped unscathed when he got Matt Wieters to pop up in foul territory for the third out.

"It seems like if I can get out of the first, things usually go pretty well," Johnson said. "I get a little amped up, maybe too amped up. I've been trying to figure that out for a long time."

The Blue Jays also loaded the bases in the first. Encarnacion and Adam Lind singled before Rasmus drew a walk.

J.P. Arencibia was hit by a pitch to push Encarnacion across home plate for the opening run. Orioles starter Freddy Garcia (3-5) got Maicer Izturis on a strikeout to end the 32-pitch inning.

Toronto added three runs in the second inning. Emilio Bonifacio reached on a slap-bunt single, stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Munenori Kawasaki.

Bonifacio scored on a sacrifice fly by Melky Cabrera. Bautista drew a walk and Encarnacion followed with his 21st home run of the season.

The Jays knocked Garcia out of the game in a five-run third inning.

"We're on a nice little roll right now," Gibbons said. "It's not going to last forever but you enjoy it and you take it while it lasts. If you play good all-around baseball, you've got a chance to win.

"You're not going to win them all but you've got a chance."

Johnson was pulled after Ryan Flaherty hit a two-run shot in the top of the seventh inning. He allowed four earned runs, seven hits, an intentional walk and had five strikeouts.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2013 C4

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