Long time coming for Janssen, Jays
Scott Rolen had a pair of run-scoring doubles and starter Casey Janssen won his first game in more than two years on Friday night as the Toronto Blue Jays ended their lengthy losing streak with a 6-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Rolen and Rod Barajas each drove in two runs as a return to Rogers Centre brought relief for a team that lost all nine games on its road trip.
Janssen (1-1) notched his first victory since May 24, 2007, after missing all of last season due to a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. He returned to the lineup last week with his first big league start in nearly three years, after spending 2007 as a reliever.
"It is a relief to finally get it," said Janssen, "and against Boston, it's a big win for us."
The right-hander had some early yips and was never overwhelming, but provided the Blue Jays with some much-needed innings at the beginning of the important three-game set.
Janssen went seven, allowing 11 hits and two walks, while striking out two.
The Blue Jays (28-23) broke open the game with a five-run fifth inning off Boston starter Tim Wakefield. The knuckleballer had been the winning pitcher in the game last week that started Toronto's losing streak.
"You go through a period like that and you think, 'Oh goodness, we just lost six games in the standings,"' said Vernon Wells, who scored twice and stole a base. "We lost a few, yeah, but no one really ran away with anything, so it's encouraging, but we obviously have to play better baseball."
Janssen dodged an early bullet when the struggling David Ortiz launched a deep shot with the bases loaded that was caught at the centre-field wall by Wells.
"All I can do is laugh, I ain't going to cry," said Ortiz, with just one home run this season.
"I hit it to the deepest part of the place," he added. "That's too bad. I've got to be smarter than that."
The Blue Jays caught a break in their first at bat when Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia dropped an almost certain double-play toss, allowing Alex Rios to settle at first and Aaron Hill to scamper over to third.
Hill had singled to stretch his hit streak to 12 consecutive games.
Wells walked to fill the bases for Toronto, but Adam Lind hit into an inning-ending double play.
Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury and Rolen began a game of offensive tit-for-tat.
Janssen gave up three hits in the second as Boston took the first lead, with centre-fielder Ellsbury smacking a double to score Mike Lowell.
Rolen got that back in the third with a double to score Wells.
Ellsbury singled in the top of the fourth to score catcher and Toronto native George Kottaras — who had doubled — but Rolen again drove in Wells in the fifth.
This time, other Blue Jays stepped up. Toronto hit a paltry .185 with runners in scoring position during their drought but would go 4-for-11 on Friday.
Lyle Overbay followed the Rolen hit with a double and the first Toronto lead of the game.
Barajas appeared to have another two-bagger, but Jason Bay of Trail, B.C., made a diving play in left for Boston to limit the catcher to one base. Even so, Kevin Millar and Overbay were able to come across for a 5-2 Toronto lead.
"I had no chance [against Wakefield] my first two at-bats," said Barajas. "That ball was starting at my chest and it was ending up at my feet.
"In that fifth inning, he left some up."
Marco Scutaro continued his hot ways, drilling a pitch over centre-fielder Ellsbury to score Barajas. The Toronto shortstop enjoyed his fifth consecutive multi-hit game, during which he is 11-for-24.
Wakefield (6-3) departed with one out in the fifth having yielded six runs on nine hits. He walked four and struck out five, but his career record against Toronto would ultimately fall to 17-12.
J.D. Drew tagged Janssen with a solo home run with one out in the seventh, but the Blue Jays starter finished his night with a flourish, striking out Bay on a called third strike.
"It was a grind," said Janssen. "My command wasn't great, they hit my mistakes, but if I can just limit them to as many singles as possible, try to get a double play, I can try to limit the damage."
Rookie Daniel Bard was impressive for the visitors. Following Wakefield's slow knucklers, the reliever's hard pitches fooled Toronto batters for five strikeouts in just over two innings.
Toronto's bullpen had a disastrous outing in blowing Wednesday's game with Baltimore, but on this night Brandon League and Scott Downs followed with hitless innings.
Downs notched his sixth save for the Blue Jays, who are now 17-6 at home.
Toronto is 1 ½ back of the pace in the American League East. The New York Yankees took over the division lead from Boston by ½ game with a victory on Friday night.
With files from The Canadian Press