A seven-game win streak and the emergence of Esmil Rogers as a reliable starter is taking some of the pressure off injuries to the Blue Jays' pitching rotation.
Edwin Encarnacion had a home run and three RBIs to back Roger's strong outing against his former club and Toronto took a 8-3 interleague victory over the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.
Rogers (3-2) pitched 6 2-3 innings while giving up three runs — two earned — and four hits in his fourth start of the year and first against his former team.
It was the Dominican's second straight quality start and comes at a perfect time with news that right-hander Brandon Morrow has had a setback in his rehabilitation from a forearm injury.
"We had guys out and we were scrambling looking for guys who could do it, we gave some other guys some shots, and he just stepped up," said Jays manager John Gibbons. "Early on he was limited to what he could do. He's a four-pitch guy now. Early on coming out of the bullpen, he was a two-pitch guy. He's got a dynamite arm. He shut down a good-hitting team (tonight)."
Catcher J.P. Arencibia went 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs for Toronto, which hasn't won seven straight since Aug. 30 to Sept. 9, 2008. The Jays (34-36) have won 11 of their last 14 games since June 2 while outscoring their opponents 73-38 in that span.
Arencibia, who has five RBIs over his last four games, says the Jays are pleased with the surge but there's still plenty of work to do.
"We dug ourselves a hole early so it's not about looking ahead or looking forward, it's about looking at what's in front of us," said Arencibia. "We come to the field tomorrow getting ready for the game and attack it tomorrow. The rest we can't really worry about."
Canadian Jeff Francis, making his fourth career start against Toronto, had an unwelcome homecoming.
The Colorado left-hander (2-5) and North Delta, B.C., native was roughed up for 10 hits and eight runs — including all three homers — over six innings.
It was his first loss against the Jays in four tries, and second trip to Toronto, his last coming on Aug. 25, 2011, a 9-6 win when he was with the Kansas City Royals.
Francis insists pitching in his home country didn't factor in his performance.
"Once I get out there, it's me versus the batter," he said. "It's fun to have your friends and family in the park but when I'm out there, I'm not thinking about that."
Jays jump on Francis
The Jays jumped on Francis early starting with leadoff hitter Melky Cabrera putting a line drive up the middle for a base hit, then advancing on a ground out before coming home on Encarnacion's laser to the centre-field wall. Designated hitter Adam Lind sent one back to centre, scoring Encarnacion, and Mark DeRosa doubled to the left-field corner to put runners on second and third.
Rajai Davis, filling in for Colby Rasmus in the lineup, put another into left to score Lind, but DeRosa was caught out at third for the second out. Arencibia stroked a pitch to left to bring home Davis and prompt a visit to the mound from Rockies pitching coach Jim Wright. Francis stayed in the game and induced a ground out from Maicer Izturis to contain the damage at 4-0 Toronto.
"I didn't execute pitches," said Francis. "You leave them up like that to those guys and you know they're going to make you pay and they did. They got me early."
The Canadian lefty settled down in the second and pitched three scoreless innings to keep pace with a sharp-looking Rogers, who had Colorado hitless through five.
"I'm just trying to follow any opportunity (Gibbons) is going to give me," said Rogers, who played parts of four seasons with the Rockies before being traded last year to Cleveland for cash considerations. "I've got unbelievable confidence right now."
Again it was Cabrera who led the attack as he put a Francis pitch into deep right to open the fifth inning with a single. That set up Encarnacion's two-run blast over the left-field wall for his 19th home run of the year, putting Toronto into a comfortable 6-0 lead.
The Rockies finally got a hit off Rogers in the sixth when Jonathan Herrera cracked a single to centre. Colorado, however, stranded the runner as Rogers retired the next two batters, including a strike out on Josh Rutledge for his fifth K of the game.
Toronto piled on Francis in the sixth when Arencibia, with a second-deck rocket into left, and Izturis hit back-to-back jacks — a first for Toronto this season.
Colorado (37-35) cut its daunting deficit in the seventh when Rosario singled to centre with runners at the corners and no outs. That brought home Carlos Gonzalez before Arenado grounded out to score Michael Cuddyer, ending the night for Rogers. The 22,852 at Rogers Centre gave a standing ovation to the 27-year-old Dominican as he headed for the dugout with a smile on his face.
Reliever Aaron Loup came in but the Rockies scored one more to make it 8-3 on an error by Izturis.
Toronto's Darren Oliver and Steve Delabar pitched a clean eighth and ninth, respectively.