TORONTO (AP)—The Toronto Blue Jays are stuck in last place for numerous reasons. Their league-leading bullpen isn’t one of them.
Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run double, Neil Wagner earned his first major league win and four Toronto relievers combined for five shutout innings to lead the Blue Jays to a 6-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday night.
Jeff Baker’s leadoff single in the seventh was the only hit allowed during the five innings, and he was erased on a double play.
Toronto’s bullpen has pitched 17 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings since a 17-inning loss at San Diego on May 31.
“Everyone in the bullpen is throwing well,” Wagner said. “It’s good to know that if you come in and you struggle, you have three or four guys that might come in the game after you that are all just dominating. It’s a fun group to be a part of.”
Melky Cabrera homered, scored twice and drove in two runs to help the Blue Jays win for the ninth time in 13 home games, dating to May 5.
Texas batters struck out 13 times as the slumping Rangers lost for the seventh time in 11 games.
“It happens,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “We’re in a little funk right now as far as putting runs on the board.”
Texas struck out a season-high 15 times in a 5-3 loss at Arizona on May 27.
Making his second start of the season, Blue Jays right-hander Esmil Rogers allowed one run and three hits in four innings. He walked one and fanned a season-high six.
“He did a good job after the first inning, kind of quieted us down,” Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.
“Once they got the lead, it was tough,” Pierzynski said.
Toronto relievers allowed just one earned run in their past 29 1-3 innings, and one homer in the past 37 innings.
“We’ve got some weapons out there, some guys that can really pitch,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Rangers rookie right-hander Nick Tepesch (3-5) lost for the fourth time in his past five decisions, allowing a career-high six runs and five hits in seven innings. He walked two and struck out six.
Tepesch retired the first nine batters in order, striking out the side in the second, before Cabrera tied it with a leadoff homer in the fourth. The second deck blast was his third homer of the season.
The Blue Jays took the lead with a four-run sixth. Toronto loaded the bases with a hit batter, a single and a walk before Encarnacion hit his two-run double. Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia both followed with sacrifice flies.
“For five innings there, he was moving his ball around and keeping it down, staying off the fat part of the zone,” Washington said. “That one inning they just got him.”
Toronto tacked on more in the seventh when Munenori Kawasaki hit a two-out single, snapping an 0-for-16 slump, and scored on Cabrera’s base hit to right, charging home when the relay throw went to second base.
Rangers first baseman Chris McGuiness made his major league debut, going 0 for 3 with a strikeout.
NOTES: RHP Chien-Ming Wang opted out of his minor league contract with the New York Yankees and plans to sign with Toronto. The Blue Jays’ 4.56 ERA is 28th in the major leagues. … Toronto recalled C Josh Thole and selected INF Andy LaRoche from Triple-A Buffalo. C Henry Blanco was designated for assignment. … Following the game, the Blue Jays activated RHP Dustin McGowan off the 60-day DL and optioned RHP Todd Redmond to Buffalo. … Gibbons said 3B Brett Lawrie is wearing a walking boot on his injured left ankle. Lawrie went on the 15-day DL May 28. … Washington said Beltre will not play defense in any of the three games on Toronto’s turf, limiting him to DH duties. … Texas OF Nelson Cruz and 1B Lance Berkman got the day off. Washington said Cruz has been bothered by soreness in his hamstrings. … Former Texas C Ivan Rodriguez was elected Friday as the 16th member of the Rangers’ Hall of Fame.