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Blue Jays 7, Rangers 5: Six runs in the first is enough to prevent a Texas comeback

An early offensive outburst and some solid bullpen work was enough to overcome some bumpy middle innings.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Biagini hadn’t been getting much help. In the last four games he stated entering tonight, the Jays only scored a grand total of seven runs. That trend ended quickly when the reshuffled Blue Jays lineup posted a six spot in the opening frame.

New leadoff hitter Jose Bautista did exactly what a leadoff hitter is supposed to do during his first plate appearance of the game; he got on base (via a walk). Then the hit parade began with two outs. Justin Smoak knocked in a run with a single to center field to draw first blood. Then Kendrys Morales followed with a single of his own to keep the inning alive. After that, Steve Pearce and Ryan Going both doubled, setting up an exclamation point home run from Darwin Barney that was just high enough to clear the wall, and just fair enough to sneak inside the poll. 6-0 Jays.

A rocking chair victory seemed possible after those fireworks, but the Rangers spent the middle innings chipping away and would get the tying run to the plate by the sixth inning.

Joe Biagini wasn’t horrible in this game, but it never felt like he had the Rangers off balance. The best thing he did was throw strikes. After walking Shin-Soo Choo to open the bottom of the first, he and the Jays bullpen didn’t issue another free pass until the bottom of the ninth. The Rangers managed to square up their fair share of balls and collected nine hits, but it was always an uphill battle for them.

As it turned out, the most concerning hit of the night came in the fifth when Steve Pearce played a ball off the left field wall into an inside the park home run. Pearce seemed to have the ball sized up, and then at the last moment made a late break to the wall where he slammed his knee hard. He briefly stayed in the game, but later left with what the team is calling a left knee contusion. He’s considered day to day.

Hopefully Pearce won’t miss much time because he’s added a ton of energy at the plate to the left field wasteland over the last week. Even tonight he was 3-3 before exiting.

In the sixth inning, it felt like the game might slip away. Mike Napoli sent Biagini to the showers with a single to center, Joey Gallo smacked a double to right off Aaron Loup, and Danny Barnes allowed both of those runners to score on a single from Delino DeShields.

From that moment forward though, the bullpen was nails. Barnes struck out Choo to end the sixth and then cruised through a one-two-three seventh. Red hot Ryan Tepera then pitched a dramaless eighth, and Roberto Osuna pitched around a two out walk to slam the door in the ninth. It was Osuna’s 75th career save, and he’s the youngest player to ever reach that mark. What a special player.

Two big things won this game for the Jays: The huge first inning, and the bullpen shutting down the Texas comeback late. The Rangers had nine hits over the first six innings. They had none over the last three. That’s how you take control of a game and prevent crushing losses.

Ryan Tepera’s work has been a huge part of this. Since April 27, he now has a 0.66 ERA while holding opponents under a .400 OPS. This type of find allows the Jays to survive a loss like Joe Smith. If the Jays don’t have this bridge piece to Osuna, there’s a decent chance they lose this game.

Jays of the Day: Pearce (.110) had the number, but he also gets a demerit for playing Gallo’s ball into an inside the park home run. Goins hit the number on the nose (.100) thanks largely to his double in the first, and I’m giving one to both Tepera (.096) and Osuna (.101) for the way they took control of the game in the eighth and ninth.

Jays Suckage: Nobody got the number, but Donaldson went 0-4 with a -.076 and would probably tell you that he should have done more to help put the game out of reach.

Tomorrow the Jays will send Marcus Stroman to the mound against Martin Perez as they try for the ninth time to get back to .500. (They have to break through one of these times right?) The action begins a 2:05 p.m. ET.

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