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Blue Jays snap skid, top Astros

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- The Toronto Blue Jays needed a little help from a wild rookie closer to put an end to their season-high seven-game losing streak Sunday.

The Houston Astros took a 1-0 lead into the ninth and handed the ball to rookie closer Chia-Jen Lo to save the game for starter Dallas Keuchel. But Lo was not up to the task, walking three of the five batters he faced before giving way to Kevin Chapman.

Toronto rookie second baseman Ryan Goins drove in the winning run in the top of the ninth inning, and the Blue Jays snapped the skid to beat the Astros 2-1 at Minute Maid Park.

Casey Janssen worked around a two-out Houston rally in the ninth to pick up his 23rd save of the season by getting Astros rookie Cody Clark to ground out to second with the bases loaded to end the game.

"Realistically, we have been in so many games on this road trip -- all of them except the last two games here where we came up short -- so that is eating at you," said Toronto manager John Gibbons. "Then, of course it is a losing streak, so winning the last one here always feels good. It doesn't make things any better where we are at right now, but it was something we needed."

Clark fouled off the first of two straight cutters by Janssen in the game's final at-bat. On the second pitch, he hit it off the end of the bat and Janssen got just enough of the ball to deflect it to Goins at second base.

"There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to get a hit right there, but it just didn't happen," said Clark, a 31-year old rookie, who spent the first 11 years of his pro career in the minors.

Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle (10-7) pitched eight solid innings, giving up just one earned run on seven hits, while walking two and striking out seven. Sunday marked Buehrle's second straight dazzling start against Houston. He shut out Houston on July 25 as the Blue Jays beat the Astros 4-0 at Rogers Centre.

"Guys were joking around saying that this is probably the biggest start of my career over when we went to playoffs and World Series," said Buehrle. "But again, I go out there no matter what the situation is or who we are playing, I go out there and try to compete and try to win no matter if we have won 10 in a row or lost 10 in a row."

With the Astros trying to sweep a three-game series for the first time since early June at Los Angeles, Keuchel pitched seven scoreless innings and did not allow a runner to reach third base.

Keuchel had given up 13 runs in his last four appearances (three starts), but mixed his pitches well against the reeling Blue Jays, whose seven straight losses were all on the road. Keuchel gave up just four hits while striking out two and walking three.

"I knew I had Buehrle opposing me, and he tends to work pretty fast," Keuchel said. "My main goal was to try not to look up at the clock. I just wanted to go out there and work as quickly as possible and give our team a chance to hit."

Jonathan Villar had three hits and Robbie Grossman added two more for the Astros, who lost to the Blue Jays for the first time ever at Minute Maid Park. Houston swept a three-game series against Toronto in 2005.

Buehrle worked his way out of trouble in the second, giving up just one run after the Astros loaded the bases with no outs on a walk and two singles by Brandon Barnes and Villar. The Astros got their only run of the game when Jake Elmore grounded into a double play, scoring Matt Domínguez. Buehrle then induced a soft lineout by Clark to escape more trouble.

"Those veteran guys, when you get them on the ropes early, you want to do everything you can to put crooked up and give yourselves a cushion," said Astros manager Bo Porter. "As you can see, he got out of that, he only gives up the one run, he gets into a groove, and he ends up going as far as he went."

Keuchel, who had been hit pretty hard in six of his past nine appearances, only gave up one hit in his first four innings of work. Despite a relatively high pitch count -- 60 through four innings -- Keuchel used an effective cutter to get out of trouble.

NOTES -- Astros OF Grossman singled in his first at-bat Sunday to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 12 games. ... With both backup catchers suffering from concussions, Clark made his first major league start behind the play. He went 0-for-4. ... Astros backup catcher Carlos Corporan is on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion. He had a CT scan on Friday in Houston. The veteran will not travel with the Astros to Chicago to play the White Sox later this week.
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