Blue Jays 5, Cubs 1

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TORONTO (AP)—Kelvim Escobar is sure glad he’s a starter again.

Escobar, who lost his job as the closer last month, struck out a season-high 10 and nearly pitched his second straight shutout as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Chicago Cubs 5-1 Friday night for their fifth straight win.

“I’m very happy,” Escobar said. “I’ve put all the things that happened at the beginning of the season behind me.”

Escobar (4-3), who shut out Cincinnati last Sunday, worked around 10 hits through eight innings. The Cubs ended his shutout bid in the ninth inning when Damian Miller and Tom Goodwin hit consecutive doubles with one out.

Goodwin’s double stopped Escobar’s scoreless-inning streak at 17 innings. Escobar, who walked none, was pulled after the hit.

“They say when you turn 27, 28 or 29 that’s the time when you start doing pretty good. I guess I got all my stuff together,” Escobar said. “I’m focused, I’m trusting my stuff and I’m not trying to do too much.”

After allowing three straight singles in the first, the 27-year-old right-hander struck out Eric Karros and Troy O’Leary to escape the jam.

“I used to be a closer so I’m used to that situation, so I don’t rush,” he said.

Escobar, shuttled from bullpen to rotation and back again, saved 14 games for Toronto in 1997. He was primarily a starter in 1999 and 2000, was a setup man for Billy Koch in 2001 and saved 38 games last season.

“I thought he was a good pitcher when I was here four years ago. I just thought he was mishandled,” said Chicago hitting coach Gary Matthews Sr., a former hitting coach and broadcaster in Toronto. “With arm he has, if you put him on the trading block, they’ll be a lot of teams that would be interested.”

Reed Johnson, Chris Woodward and Greg Myers homered for the Blue Jays, who are eight games over .500 for the first time since May 1, 2001.

Kerry Wood (5-5) allowed five runs on seven hits in six innings in his career first start against the Blue Jays.

“I didn’t know a whole lot about them. That’s tough,” Wood said. “I’ve watched a little bit of tape on them. The guys that we were worried about the most, we were able to take care of those guys. It was the other guys who hurt us. I left some pitches up.”

Chicago’s Sammy Sosa missed his third straight game while serving a seven-game suspension for using a corked bat. The Cubs are 1-2 without their cleanup hitter, who did not accompany the team to Toronto.

The Blue Jays have won seven straight at SkyDome.

After Myers homered into Windows restaurant to give Toronto a 5-0 lead in the sixth, Wood threw a pitch behind Josh Phelps.

Myers doubled in the second and scored on Howie Clark’s single.

Johnson homered in the third, and Woodward homered in the fifth. Vernon Wells later followed with an RBI single in the fifth, giving Toronto a 4-0lead.

Notes

The Cubs gave first-round draft pick Ryan Harvey a $2.4 million signing bonus. Harvey, a high school player from Dunedin, Fla., was the sixth overall pick in the June 3 draft. … Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey was hoping Sosa’s suspension would be reduced enough to allow him to play at least part of the three-game series at SkyDome. The Blue Jays unveiled a new variable ticket scheme this past offseason and the best seats for Saturday’s and Sunday’s gamesare more expensive then usual because of Sosa. … Attendance was 23,018.

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