TORONTO (AP)—Booed off the mound in his last start, A.J. Burnett left to a much warmer reception Friday.
Burnett struck out seven over five innings to win for the first time in four starts, Scott Rolen and Matt Stairs hit back-to-back home runs and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Cubs 3-2, snapping Chicago’s four-game winning streak.
The Cubs lost a series-opening game for the first time since May 5 at Cincinnati. Chicago had won its past 10 series-opening games.
Alex Rios went 3-for-4 with two doubles and Toronto won for just the fourth time in 12 games.
“We needed that one in a lot of ways,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Burnett (6-6) improved to 3-0 in four career starts against the Cubs, allowing two runs, four hits and four walks in five-plus innings.
The right-hander, who is in the third season of a five-year, $55-million contract, mockingly tipped his cap to the booing crowd as he exited last Saturday’s start against Baltimore after giving up eight runs in 4 1-3 innings. He apologized following the game.
Burnett wasn’t at his best in this one, but survived a shaky first to battle into the sixth. He walked off the mound to cheers and applause, but kept his head down and did not acknowledge the crowd.
“I was still inconsistent but it’s something to build on,” Burnett said. “I just didn’t want to give up. I could have easily early.”
Indeed, Burnett struggled through a 33-pitch first inning, walking the bases loaded but getting out of it when Geovany Soto flied out.
Burnett has an ERA of 8.16 in seven home appearances, including one relief stint, and a 3.00 ERA in eight road starts.
“Maybe I just want to do so well here that I put added pressure on myself,” Burnett said. “Maybe it’s wanting to do too much and give the team, the ownership and the fans something to cheer about as opposed to just going out and doing my job.”
Chicago left fielder Eric Patterson, who went 1-for-3 with an RBI single, said Burnett succeeded by keeping the Cubs off balance.
“When you get behind on a guy like that, it’s tough to hit,” Patterson said. “He threw the ball well, mixed it up and did a good job getting us out.”
Toronto put runners at first and second with two out in the second, but Jim Edmonds ended the inning with a running catch of David Eckstein’s sinking liner. Edmonds then exchanged greetings with his former St. Louis teammate as he came off the field.
The Blue Jays opened the scoring in the third, when Stairs and Rolen each hit balls that Edmonds could not catch. Stairs followed Rios’ double with a two-run blast to right, his eighth, and Rolen followed with a ball that hooked over the wall in left, his third.
It was the first time this season the Blue Jays have hit back-to-back home runs, and the first time they have hit more than one homer in an inning.
Chicago replied in the fourth when Kosuke Fukudome singled and scored on Edmonds’ double, cutting the gap to 3-1.
The Cubs chased Burnett in the fifth after Fukudome began the inning with a single and Soto walked. Wolfe came on and gave up a single to Edmonds, but the ball hit second base umpire Jeff Nelson on its way through the infield. Fukudome came around but crew chief Tim Tschida sent him back to third, leaving the bases loaded.
“It was a big break for us,” Wolfe said. “That definitely would have scored the run and it could have changed (the inning).”
One out later, Patterson singled Fukudome home, but the rally ended when Ryan Theriot hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
“We had a lot of chances, we didn’t score runs,” Chicago manager Lou Piniella said.
Toronto was denied an insurance run in the sixth when Patterson threw out Rod Barajas at the plate after Eckstein’s two-out single. Patterson fielded the roller and fired a one-hopper to Soto, who had plenty of time to shift over and tag Barajas.
Cubs right-hander Sean Gallagher (3-3) allowed three runs and seven hits in five-plus innings. He walked two and struck out five.
“Today I let a few things get away from me,” Gallagher said. “I’ll learn from this and take it to the next one.”
Left-hander Scott Eyre worked the eighth, extending his team record stretch of scoreless games to 33.
Toronto RHP Jeremy Accardo (strained right forearm) will take two days off after suffering a setback in his rehabilitation assignment, while C Gregg Zaun (sore right elbow) could be activated Sunday. … The Cubs played on artificial turf for the first time since June 25, 2006 at Minnesota. Chicago has not won on turf since September 1, 2004 at Montreal. … Former Blue Jay Reed Johnson got a standing ovation when he pinch hit for Micah Hoffpauir in the ninth. Johnson grounded out to second.