Josh Johnson, Jays shut out Rockies for 6th straight win
Maicer Izturis made sure a strong outing from Blue Jays starter Josh Johnson didn't go to waste.
Izturis drove in the game's only runs with an RBI single in the eighth inning Monday as Toronto pushed its win streak to six games with a 2-0 interleague victory over the Colorado Rockies.
Johnson struck out 10 while giving up five hits and walking two through 7 1-3 innings but is still winless in seven starts since being acquired by the Blue Jays in the off-season.
After a rough start to the year and stint on the disabled list with a triceps injury, Johnson has rounded into form as of late. He's given up a combined four runs in his last three starts, including Monday night's gem which was twice pushed back due to a blister on one of his fingers.
"It is what it is at the beginning of the year, but now we're winning and that's the fun part and the key thing," said Johnson. "You win games and everything else takes care of itself."
Monday's victory marked Toronto's first six-game winning streak since May 2011 and moved the club (33-36) to three games below .500 for the first time since April 21.
The streaking Blue Jays, who have won nine of 11, are coming off a 5-1 road trip that included the club's first-ever four-game sweep of the Rangers in Texas.
Toronto broke open a 0-0 game with Colorado in the eighth when Davis greeted Rockies reliever Matt Belisle (4-4) with a single to right and stole second before Colby Rasmus walked. J.P. Arencibia advanced the runners on a short chopper back to the mound to set up Izturis, who sent a flair into short left field to cash in two runs.
After Melky Cabrera hit into a double to end the inning, Casey Janssen sealed the win with his 15th save in the ninth.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons says Izturis — another off-season acquisition who struggled early in the season — is finally starting to settle in with the team.
"I think new guys, a new place, it's not uncommon for guys to press or whatever it is," said Gibbons. "I think he's settling in and feels comfortable now, part of the team. The way he's playing now is the way he's done his whole career. He looks a little more relaxed and settled in."
Jorge De La Rosa pitched seven innings of one-hit ball while striking out four and walking three for the Rockies (37-34), who kicked off a tough nine-game, 10-day road trip that also includes stops in Washington and Boston.
Rockies skip Walt Weiss said De La Rosa's game was affected by a bruise on his right thumb that developed as the game progressed.
"He was pretty uncomfortable the last couple of innings he was out there but he threw the ball well," Weiss said of his left-hander. "It's not anything that's going to be an issue with his next start. It just made him uncomfortable tonight."
Johnson looked sharp out of the gate, throwing seven pitches — all strikes — for a three-up, three-down first inning. He got into some trouble in the second as right-fielder Michael Cuddyer reached on a single to lead off the inning, giving him a career-high 15-game hitting streak. Todd Helton put runners at the corners with no outs, but Johnson retired Wilin Rosario and Tyler Colvin before Nolan Arenado flied out to end the inning.
"I could feel it that first inning," said Johnson. "I felt good. Just aggressive, a lot more aggressive than my last outing [a 6-4 home loss to Texas on June 9]. Trying to pound the zone, throw my slider, my curve ball. Mostly inside on lefties. It worked out."
After Colorado kept the Jays hitless through three innings, Johnson continued to do his part by mowing down more batters. He came back from a 3-0 count to retire slugger Carlos Gonzalez, forced a ground out from Cuddyer and struck out Helton to end the fourth with six strikeouts.
But the Jays struggled to give Johnson run support. Jose Bautista, in the lineup as the designated hitter for the second straight game, and Edwin Encarnacion both grounded into fielder's choices before the red-hot Adam Lind grounded out to D.J. LeMahieu to end the threat.
Lind came into the game having recorded a hit in 17 of his last 19 games dating back May 23 while batting .453 with 13 multi-hit outings over that span.
Johnson made it eight strikeouts in the fifth after retiring Rosario and Colvin, before giving up an extra base hit to Arenado. Jon Herrera smacked one up the middle that looked like it would score a run, but a fantastic stop and throw to first by Izturis kept it scoreless.
The Blue Jays shortstop then did it with his bat in the sixth when he erased any ideas of a De La Rosa no-hitter by cracking the ball to right for Toronto's first hit. However, the Jays couldn't capitalize as Cabrera popped out and Bautista sent one to the warning track, drawing groans from the 20,946 in attendance at Rogers Centre.
Those fans were on their feet in the eighth to salute Johnson, whose impressive night ended when LeMahieu's bunt pushed Herrera and Fowler to second and third with one out.
"Great outing," Gibbons said of Johnson. "Since he's been back, two out of three have been dominating performances. He had everything going on — good fastball, good breaking ball. He was attacking pretty good. He's looking to bounce back and contribute. I think he felt really good tonight."
Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil (3-0) came in and induced a line out from Gonzalez, then walked Cuddyer to load the bases before Helton grounded out.
Cecil has been lights out in recent weeks. The intentional walk to Cuddyer snapped a streak of retiring 25 straight batters dating back to May 31. He hasn't give up a run since May 10.
The last meeting between the teams was in 2010 when the Rockies swept a three-game set at Coors Field. Colorado was swept in its last visit to Toronto in 2007.