TORONTO — With his team coming off a morale-boosting series victory at Yankee Stadium the day before, Russell Martin wasn’t about to allow the Toronto Blue Jays to let up.
The veteran catcher homered and matched a season high with three hits as the Blue Jays beat the Houston Astros 7-4 on Thursday night.
“It’s a tough team and any time you get to win the first game of a series, it feels good,” Martin said. “We’ve been playing pretty good ball lately so I think the key is just doing that.”
Francisco Liriano (5-4) pitched six solid innings and Roberto Osuna converted his 21st consecutive save opportunity as the Blue Jays won their third straight and moved into a tie with Baltimore for fourth place in the AL East. Houston, which has the best record in the majors at 58-28, had won four in a row and eight of 10.
Osuna tied Billy Koch for the fourth-longest save streak in franchise history, two behind Tom Henke’s run of 23 in a row set between August 1986 and June 1987.
“He has such great feel and he keeps getting better,” Martin said. “It’s a tough at-bat for anybody right now.”
Marwin Gonzalez and Carlos Beltran homered for the Astros, handed a rare defeat on the road. The AL West leaders fell to 31-10 away from home as All-Star pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. (7-2) lost for the first time since April.
After failing to score despite loading the bases loaded in the first, the Blue Jays trailed 2-1 before batting around in a five-run fifth. Josh Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP, ended an 0-for-15 slide with a two-run single that put Toronto in front.
Kendrys Morales added an RBI double and Troy Tulowitzki chased McCullers with an RBI single that snapped his 0-for-22 skid with runners in scoring position. Three batters later, Ryan Goins doubled home Tulowitzki.
“We were facing one of the top pitchers in the game. We battled him, we had him on the ropes early, and he got out of it,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “I thought we kind of kept the pressure on and we pitched very well and shut down a great hitting team.”
In his first career start at Toronto, McCullers was charged with nine hits and six runs — five earned — in tying a season low by going 4 1/3 innings. He had won a career-best five straight decisions since losing April 26 at Cleveland.
“I wasn’t very good. The guys needed a better showing out of me,” McCullers said.
One bright spot for the Astros was a first-inning single by All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa, who returned to the lineup after sitting out the previous night with a sore left thumb. He extended the longest active hitting streak in the majors to a career-high 14 games.
“We didn’t have a great night in a lot of aspects,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “They swung the bat very well, they put a big inning up against us and never really let us out of it.”
X-TENDING HIS TALENTS
Mark McMorris, the Winter X Games athlete who has won gold medals in a number of snowboarding disciplines, threw out the first pitch.
After moving four steps to his right and diving to corral a grounder down the third base line from Gonzalez to open the fourth inning, Donaldson fired a perfect throw from his knees to get the out.
A group of Astros fans took over one of the hotel rooms looking into Rogers Centre, covering the windows with orange cards displaying the word “Woo!” The phrase, made famous by wrestler Ric Flair, has become a rallying cry for Houston during its sensational season.
Hinch said LHP Dallas Keuchel will throw off a mound this weekend in Toronto. Keuchel has been sidelined since June 2 with a pinched nerve in his neck.
Toronto signed 16-year-old Brazilian right-hander Eric Pardinho, ranked the top international pitching prospect by Major League Baseball. The youngster was signed for $1.4 million.
Astros: RHP Charlie Morton (5-3, 4.06 ERA) returns from the disabled list to make his first career appearance against the Blue Jays. Morton has been out since May 24 with a right lat strain.
Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez (0-1, 3.33) returns from blister problems on his pitching hand that have sidelined him since May 19.
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