TORONTO — Strong defence and a clutch pinch-hit helped win the day for the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday. Another impressive performance from their starting pitcher was a big factor too.
Alejandro Kirk drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning and Chris Bassitt worked eight strong frames as the Blue Jays edged the Houston Astros 3-2 at Rogers Centre.
"For me it's all about just quality starts and eating innings," Bassitt said.
Bo Bichette and Brandon Belt hit homers for Toronto and Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., got the final three outs for his 16th save.
The Blue Jays closer gave up a leadoff double to Mauricio Dubon but a groundout, a nice sliding catch by centre-fielder Kevin Kiermaier and a strikeout ended the game in a tidy two hours three minutes.
“We just didn’t get it done," said Astros manager Dusty Baker. "Their guy made a great play in centre field. That was a tough one to lose."
Houston starter Ronel Blanco gave up three hits and two earned runs over six innings. He issued four walks and had five strikeouts.
Reliever Hector Neris (3-2) came on in the seventh and was charged with a pitch-timer violation on a full count to Daulton Varsho, sending him to first base.
Varsho moved to second on a walk to Kiermaier and scored without a throw home on Kirk's single.
"I thought it was a really, really deliberate approach to get the ball in the air there," said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. "So just a really good job by him."
Bassitt (7-4) allowed two earned runs and four hits. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter.
"I had my sinker really working tonight," said Bassitt, who was activated off the paternity list a day earlier. "They were really aggressive on it.
"When I'm throwing it well and they're swinging, it's going to be a lot of quick outs hopefully."
Houston won the opener of the four-game series on Monday but Kevin Gausman's 13-strikeout performance led Toronto to victory on Tuesday.
The Blue Jays (35-28) have won six of their last seven games. It was their 14th comeback win of the season.
The Astros (36-26) have dropped just eight of their last 27 games.
After a quiet first three innings, things picked up in the fourth when Yordan Alvarez turned on a 73-m.p.h. slider for a two-run blast. It was his 17th homer of the year.
Bichette answered in the bottom half of the frame with a solo shot for his team-leading 14th homer.
Belt tied the game in the sixth inning with his fourth homer of the season.
Announced attendance was 26,724.
The Rogers Centre roof was closed for the evening game due to poor air quality in the Ontario capital.
Smoke from wildfires burning in parts of the province and throughout Quebec has drifted into southern Ontario and the northeast United States.
Right-hander Jose Berrios (5-4, 3.66 earned-run average) was scheduled to start for the Blue Jays on Thursday night against left-hander Framber Valdez (6-4, 2.16).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2023.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press