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Espinal's RBI single backs stellar Gausman outing as Blue Jays top Astros 3-2

TORONTO — It may only be the second month of the season, but Kevin Gausman felt like he had to put in a playoff-calibre performance Sunday.
Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette (11) and teammate George Springer (4) celebrate Bichette's two-run home run during the sixth inning of MLB baseball action against the Houston Astros in Toronto on Sunday, May 1, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

TORONTO — It may only be the second month of the season, but Kevin Gausman felt like he had to put in a playoff-calibre performance Sunday.

Gausman struck out 10 and allowed two runs over seven innings as the Toronto Blue Jays held off the Houston Astros 3-2 at Rogers Centre. The victory gave Toronto a 4-2 regular-season record over Houston, the defending American League champions.

"Almost felt like a post-season game," said Gausman, who noted that the Astros' roster is largely unchanged from last year's World Series. "The amount of adrenaline that you have every pitch you know, you've got to be really fine."

Gausman has been more than fine this year. 

Sunday's win made Gausman the only pitcher since Cy Young (1906) to begin a season with five straight starts and a minimum of 20 innings pitched without allowing a walk or home run. No other pitcher has accomplished the feat since the World Series era began in 1903.

"It's not like I'm trying not to walk guys, I'm just throwing competitive pitches," said Gausman (2-1). "Obviously, it's cool. But I've got another start in five days, you know?

"This game wasn't the last game of the season. We're not the last one standing yet. So, on to the next one."

Bo Bichette's two-run homer in the sixth was the first hit of the game for Toronto (15-8), breaking up a no-hit bid by Astros starter Framber Valdez. Gausman said his teammates were trying to jinx Valdez in the dugout but Bichette insisted he was focused on scoring a run with the Blue Jays down 1-0.

"I just care about winning or losing so, for me, it had nothing really to do with breaking up a no-no," said Bichette. "Just going out there, trying to have a good at bat to win the game for my team."

Toronto has won six series and tied another to start the 2022 season. The Blue Jays have won two series apiece against Houston and Boston, taken sets from Texas and Oakland, and split one in New York against the Yankees.

"Not only that, but we're playing the best teams in baseball and we have won them," said Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo. "That's a great credit to our pitching, great work by our defence and, of course, our timely hitting."

Santiago Espinal's RBI single in the seventh brought home the winning run for Toronto. Tim Mayza pitched a scoreless eighth for the Blue Jays before Jordan Romano earned his Major League-leading 11th save of the season.

Valdez (1-2) allowed three runs on just two hits and two walks for Houston, striking out two over 6 1/3 innings. Phil Maton and Héctor Neris pitched two innings of relief.

Niko Goodrum and Aledmys Diaz drove in runs for Houston (11-11) with a double and a single, respectively.

Tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Espinal came to the plate with one out and runners on first and second.

Espinal hit a single to deep left field with Alvarez coming up firing as Matt Chapman rounded third. The Blue Jays third baseman slid cleats-first into home, beating the throw for a 3-2 Toronto lead.

Romano induced a pop fly to shallow right to start the ninth before Kyle Tucker doubled. The Blue Jays closer then got pinch-hitter Alex Bregman to line out to a diving George Springer in right field. 

The 31,802 in attendance at Rogers Centre were already on their feet as Romano struck out Goodrum to end the game.

ON DECK — Ross Stripling (0-0) will take the mound for the Blue Jays on Monday as Toronto hosts the New York Yankees in a critical American League East matchup. Jordan Montgomery (0-1) will get the start for the Yankees. New York sits atop the AL East standings after one month, with Toronto second.    

BOUNCE BACK — The Blue Jays have not lost back-to-back games since Sept. 24. Their current stretch of 30 games without consecutive losses is the longest active streak in Major League Baseball. Toronto's longest such streak in team history is 45 games, stretching from Aug. 30, 1992-April 20, 1993.

OPTIONED — After the game the Blue Jays optioned infielder Gosuke Katoh and right-handed pitcher Bowden Francis to triple-A Buffalo. The Bisons have Monday off but the moves could be to create space on Toronto's roster if left-handed pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu (forearm), outfielder Teoscar Hernandez (oblique), or catcher Danny Jansen (oblique) are ready to come off the injured list.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2022.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press