Blue Jays nearly blow 7-0 lead, but manage to hang on to topple Houston Astros

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Up big early until a five-run fifth inning made things too close for comfort, the Blue Jays hung on by their fingernails for a 7-6 win.

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Leading 7-0 through four innings, the whole complexion quickly changed.

More than a few were left to wonder how the Blue Jays would find a way to blow this opportunity knowing the outcome rested on the shoulders of the team’s depleted bullpen.

Nate Pearson was good, Trevor Richards wasn’t as good during his one inning of relief, setting the stage for Chad Green to nail it down in the role as the team’s de facto closer.

It made for quite the ending to a ball game that seemed to be a certainty based on how the Blue Jays were able to do so much damage at the plate.

Nothing comes easy for this team and Tuesday was no exception when Green gave up a leadoff double.

Two outs later the crowd booed vociferously when Jose Altuve stepped up to the plate.

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Altuve hit a fly ball into centre field that was easily caught for the out.

The Jays survived on a thrilling night of baseball that had more than its share of intriguing moments.

Green earned his third save of the season.

On far too many nights, the Jays have been the beneficiaries of strong starting pitching in the absence of a lack of hitting.

The roles were reversed as Jose Berrios had one of his toughest outings of the season on a night when the team’s beleaguered bats staked the right-hander to a 7-0 lead.

Two home runs would be crushed, including one off the bat of George Springer, the suddenly surging hitter whose defence remained a constant when he was scuffling at the plate.

Against his former team, Springer went deep for a three-run blast in the third inning to give the former World Series MVP his ninth homer of the season as he extended his streak to seven.

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Berrios, safe to say, has pitched much better, but he was still in line to earn the win because his offence picked him up.

IL FOR IKF

The news surrounding Isiah Kiner-Falefa is much worse than the actual news of being placed on the 10-day injured list because of a knee sprain.

Week-to-week is how manager John Schneider summed it up, but there’s a feeling one of the team’s most reliable bats may miss considerable time.

IKF said he felt something was amiss while performing his normal stretching regimen prior to Monday’s game.

An MRI was performed and the results were encouraging.

Still, it seems IKF isn’t going to be an option in the foreseeable future.

By any measurement, he has exceeded all expectations after the Blue Jays signed IKF this past off-season in free agency. A versatile infielder, it has been IKF’s bat that has been an eye-opener. He has even shown some power at the plate.

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When Bichette was moved to the 10-day IL (calf) recently, IKF started at shortstop and batted leadoff.

Bichette returned once the mandated 10 days had expired, but a similar trajectory is not in the cards for IKF.

Either way, the latest development is not good for a Blue Jays squad that continues to receive bad news.

In a corresponding move, the team was able to recall shortstop Leo Jimenez, the Jays’ No. 5 prospect.

A bona fide shortstop, Jimenez’s play in triple-A did merit a promotion after hitting .271 and sporting an on-base percentage of .416 with the Buffalo Bisons.

Two of the players the 23-year-old admired were Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bichette when Jimenez embarked on his progression in the Jays’ system.

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“Controls the zone really well and has potential to impact the baseball with some power,’’ said Schneider.

Defence, added the skipper, is Jimenez’s calling card.

Schneider envisions Jimenez also playing at second base.

HORWITZ HOMER

Tuesday marked Spencer Horwitz’s 17th start of the season.

In each game, he has found a way to reach base, whether it involves a hit, being hit or drawing a walk.

Horwitz batted second in the lineup. In his second at-bat, he turned on a Spencer Arrighetti offered and deposited deep into the seats in right field toward the hot-dog counter.

Naturally, Tuesday was Loonie Dogs Night at the ball park.

His third long ball of the season gave the Jays a 2-0 lead after the home side opened the scoring courtesy of a walk followed by a wild pitch in the first inning that was capped off by a run-scoring single by Justin Turner.

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DOUBLE TROUBLE

You knew the Astros were in for a long night and it had nothing to do with Springer going deep.

A sequence that summed up Houston’s woes began when Ernie Clement doubled in the fourth inning.

Alejandro Kirk then reached base on a walk. Next came Addison Barger, who hit a bullet into the gap in left field for a double. Kirk scored on a passed ball, prompting the Stros to get their bullpen moving.

Houston played a brand of baseball that was far from clean.

One of the few early inning missteps by the Blue Jays played out in the home half of the second inning.

After Daulton Varsho reached base on a walk, he was picked off at first base. The Jays were then retired in order.

At the top of the eighth inning, Bichette made a throwing error to first base. Then came an error by Richards on a pick-off attempt at second. The two gaffes led to Houston scoring a run as the visitors made it a one-run game.

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YORDAN RULES

Everything appeared to be going in the Jays’ favour after they forged a 7-0 lead through four innings. Berrios appeared to be control.

It all changed in the top of the fifth when the Astros sent eight batters up the plate. During a stretch that saw the visitors score five runs, Berrios put a runner on base following a hit pitch.

The biggest moment was provided by Yordan Alvarez, Houston’s No. 3 hitter who went yard for a three-run homer. Suddenly, a ball game broke out.

Berrios’ outing ended after five innings. He recorded only one strikeout, while walking two.

Five was the operative word for Berrios after allowing five runs, all earned, on five hits.

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