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For one afternoon anyway, it was as if the the Blue Jays said enough is enough.
Enough of the Sunday reds, which may as well have been blood-splattered following a couple of recent blowout losses at the Rogers Centre.
And enough with the sleepy, in-and-out offence.
The Jays came out swinging on Sunday, riding a five-run first inning to a 7-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The win allowed the home side to take the series 2-1 and improve to 4-2 in the current 10-game home stand.
The big blast was a two-run Josh Donaldson homer to get things started, a line drive off the facing of the third deck that was measured at 452 feet. It was Donaldson’s longest home run of the season – and left the park in a hurry – setting the tone for the remainder of the frame.
By the time they Jays were done in the first, they had erased the 1-0 deficit starter J.A. Happ had spotted the Pirates in the top of the inning, batted through the order and had a 5-1 lead.
Staked to that advantage, Happ once again flashed the form that made him a 20-game winner last season with his third consecutive excellent outing.
The result – and the three-homer outburst that was the Jays offence – was a welcome change to what had become a disturbing trend for the thousands of fans filling the Rogers Communications Cashbox on Sundays.
The Jays had intended to wear their red uniforms every Sunday this season to honour Canada’s 150th anniversary. But in three previous such outings, however they had allowed 44 runs, including a 15-1 loss to the Red Sox and 19-1 drubbing at the hands of the Houston Astros.
After the early offensive outburst, the Jays went into a dry spell until Darwin Barney’s two-out solo homer in the sixth increased the lead to 6-1. The homer ended an 0-for-18 drought for the Jays infielder.
After giving up that run in the first, it was another impressive outing for Happ, who improved to 6-8 on the season with the victory.
At one point between the second and sixth innings, Happ had retired 16 of the 18 batters he faced. The final Pirates batter he dispatched was a big one. After issuing a pair of two-out walks in the sixth, Happ made his eighth strikeout of the day count, mowing down Jody Mercer with a 95 MPH fastball on his 104th pitch of the game.
In his six innings of work, Happ allowed four hits, just one beyond the first. Happ has now allowed just three earned runs in his past 20.2 innings of work.
After Donaldson’s two-run homer, the Jays scored three more in the first. The key hit was from Mr. RISP Ryan Goins, who doubled down the right-field line to bring home Justin Smoak and Ezequiel Carrera … After his double, Goins scored on a rare double steal, creeping up the line for a huge advantage … It was Happ’s first career start against the Pirates, one of his former teams … Smoak joined the home-run fun with a solo effort in the seventh. It was the all-star first baseman’s 32nd of the year putting him within range of the 42 Edwin Encarnacion hit as a Blue Jay last season. The Sunday homer ended a nine-game drought without a long ball from the Jays leader … Jays manager John Gibbons had hoped to give his bullpen aces some rest, but that plan dissipated after Leonel Campos issued a pair of two-out walks in the eighth. Ryan Tepera, in for the 53rd time this season, entered to clean up the mess with a strikeout and pop up.
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