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J.A. Happ wins 18th, Toronto Blue Jays inch closer to first

By
Larry Millson, The Sports Xchange
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ. Photo by David Tulis/UPI
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher J.A. Happ. Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays had a players-only meeting before their key game against the Boston Red Sox Saturday afternoon.

The meeting got rave reviews.

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More important, the Blue Jays went on to defeat the Red Sox 3-2 and end a four-game losing streak with Melvin Upton Jr. hitting a two-run homer and J.A. Happ allowing two runs in six-plus innings to earn his 18th win of the season.

"I got chills all throughout that meeting," said Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis, who had three hits to extend his hit streak to seven games. "There are guys in that room that we had a meeting with before the game that I grew up watching and I grew up idolizing and to have them in a room spreading advice and pumping the guys up, that's just incredible for me. It's something I'll never forget."

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The Blue Jays (78-63) moved to within one game of the first-place Red Sox (79-62) in the American League East with the rubber match in the three-game series to be played Sunday.

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Happ (18-4) allowed four hits and one walk. The left-hander struck out five.

Dustin Pedroia homered for the Red Sox to extend his hitting streak against the Blue Jays to 28 games.

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"We just couldn't find a way to get a couple more runs," Pedroia said. "(Happ) is tough. His fastball gets on you, he locates real well, he's got late movement on his offspeed stuff. It just wasn't our day."

Toronto closer Roberto Osuna pitched around a leadoff walk to Hanley Ramirez in the ninth to earn his 31st save of the season.

"(Happ) stayed out of the middle of the plate," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He's got that ability against right-handers to throw that four-seamer that looks good, it's at the top of the strike zone, but it moves off the bat head. Many, many times we've shown the ability to put up a quality offensive game. He shut us down today. We were a swing of the bat away. Unfortunately they made a couple of key pitches."

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Boston left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (2-7) allowed four hits, two walks and three runs (two earned) while striking out five in six innings.

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Russell Martin led off the bottom of the second with a walk and he scored on the 20th home run of the season by Upton, a shot to left on a 1-1 fastball.

Upton was one of the goats of the 13-3 loss on Friday night, dropping a flyball in left field and having difficulty on a couple of other plays. Travis committed an error on Friday for the third straight game.

"Outstanding pitching performances by all those guys," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Two guys who took a lot of heat (Friday) night came through for us. Upton with the big homer and Devon keeps swinging the bat."

The Blue Jays took a 3-0 lead in the third on a bloop RBI single to center by Jose Bautista. It scored Josh Donaldson, who reached first on a fielder's choice grounder to shortstop and took third on an error by third baseman Aaron Hill.

"I'm not the one who called the meeting," Martin said. "I'm glad we had it. It was just good to get the guys in a room and talk about the things we need to talk about. Just to make sure we're all in it together and remembering it's about winning, it's not about individuals, it's about the team. It was just nice to get everybody together to talk about it and get back on the same page. ...It was a positive meeting."

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The Red Sox did not have a hit until Chris Young's one-out single in the fifth. Happ retired the next two hitters to end the inning.

Pedroia led off the sixth with his 13th homer of the season, a drive off the foul pole in left.

Happ was replaced by Joaquin Benoit after Ramirez and Hill opened the seventh with singles to put runners at the corners.

Young fouled out to right and Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a sacrifice fly to right that Bautista hauled in at the wall to cut the Toronto lead to 3-2. Pinch-hitter Travis Shaw stuck out to end the inning.

Matt Barnes replaced Rodriguez in the bottom of the seventh. He survived one-out singles by Kevin Pillar and Travis.

Toronto reliever Jason Grilli pitched around an error by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in the top of the eighth.

Joe Kelly pitched the bottom of the eighth for Boston, allowing only a walk.

NOTES: Toronto C Russell Martin (left knee) returned to the lineup Saturday after resting his sore knee Friday. C Dioner Navarro was behind the plate Friday and had two passed balls while going 0-for-4 at the plate. ... Toronto RF Jose Bautista was in right field Saturday after being used as DH on Friday. ... Boston INF Aaron Hill started at third base for the 25th game Saturday since joining the Red Sox in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers on July 7. ... Toronto RHP Aaron Sanchez (13-2, 2.92 ERA) will face Boston RHP Clay Buchholz (6-10, 4.99 ERA) in the series finale Sunday.

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