TORONTO – After an inconsistent year in his first full season with Toronto, Jose Berrios is playing like the reliable starter that the Blue Jays traded for in 2021 and later signed to a long-term deal.
The right-hander made his seventh quality start of the season Thursday night, tossing six innings of four-hit ball in a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros.
“I think it’s execution, confidence and really being convicted with a plan,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “His stuff has always been good. It just comes down to executing.”
Berrios, who had a lofty 5.23 earned-run average last season, has allowed two runs or fewer in six of his last seven outings.
He’s 6-2 with a 2.53 earned-run average over his last 11 starts.
“I remember those last seven outings from 2021 with the Blue Jays,” Berrios said, recalling his strong finish to that season. “I feel the same way (now).”
The Blue Jays (36-28) scored all of their runs in the fifth inning and it held up for a third straight win.
Brandon Belt drove in Matt Chapman with a single for the go-ahead run against Houston starter Framber Valdez (6-5). Toronto has won nine of its last 11 games.
“Starting pitching, pretty good defence and good at-bats up and down,” Schneider said.
Berrios (6-4) allowed two earned runs, two walks and had two strikeouts. Yimi Garcia, Erik Swanson and Jordan Romano each threw a scoreless inning.
Romano, from Markham, Ont., closed with a 1-2-3 ninth for his 17th save.
Astros cleanup hitter Alex Bregman opened the scoring in the second inning with a solo shot, his ninth home run of the season. Berrios gave up a walk and two singles to load the bases but kept the damage to a minimum with a run-scoring double-play and groundout.
Toronto centre-fielder Kevin Kiermaier was hit by a pitch in the bottom half of the frame. He was pulled from the game in the fourth inning and replaced by Daulton Varsho.
The Blue Jays said precautionary X-rays were negative and that Kiermaier had a left wrist contusion. Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez (right oblique discomfort) also left the game early.
Valdez issued three walks in the fifth inning and it proved costly. Chapman grounded into a forceout with the bases loaded to bring Varsho home.
Alejandro Kirk followed with a ground-rule double that scored Bo Bichette. Belt’s RBI single broke the tie before Kirk was thrown out at the plate.
Valdez allowed three earned runs and four hits over five innings. He had five strikeouts but walked four batters.
Houston reliever Phil Maton put two runners in scoring position in the sixth inning but escaped thanks to a slick defensive play by Bregman. The third baseman bare-handed a slow roller by Bichette and threw him out to save a run.
Garcia gave up back-to-back singles to open the seventh but Houston (36-27) couldn’t take advantage. Kirk helped stifle the momentum by catching Jose Abreu leaning too far off the bag at second base.
The Blue Jays catcher faked a throw to first before firing to second baseman Santiago Espinal, who threw to Chapman at third for the tag. Garcia then fanned Martin Maldonado to keep the one-run lead intact.
“I obviously take full responsibility for the mistake I made there,” Abreu said. “We lost because of me tonight. I take full responsibility.”
Announced attendance was 28,284 and the game took two hours 34 minutes to play.
Rogers Centre’s retractable roof was closed again due to lingering wildfire smoke from forest fires burning in parts of Ontario and Quebec.
The Blue Jays will continue their seven-game homestand on Friday with the opener of a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins.
Toronto left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (6-2, 4.40 ERA) was scheduled to start against right-hander Sonny Gray (4-1, 2.15). The Astros will head to Cleveland for a weekend series against the Guardians.
The rotation spot vacated after the demotion of Toronto right-hander Alek Manoah has yet to be filled.
The Twins plan to start right-hander Joe Ryan (7-3, 2.76) on Saturday but the Blue Jays say their starter is ‘to be announced.’
Manoah was a Cy Young finalist last year but has just one win this season. He was sent to the minors Tuesday after lasting one-third of an inning in the opener of the four-game series.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.
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