TORONTO — In his return from a two-week absence because of a right hip strain, starter Ross Stripling provided a near-perfect outing to steady the struggling Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday afternoon.
Stripling was perfect through six innings but wound up with a one-hitter in 6 1/3 innings and seven strikeouts in a 6-1 win against the Baltimore Orioles.
While the 32-year-old Texas resident was in the Blue Jays clubhouse icing down his right shoulder, George Springer ignited a six-run seventh inning with an RBI pinch-hit single to end a three-game losing streak.
"It was exactly what our team needed and more," Springer said of Stripling's performance.
The Blue Jays (62-54) have only three wins in 11 outings. The Orioles (61-56) have won 10 of 15 in August to creep too close for comfort to Toronto in the battle for the American League's third and final wild-card spot. They left town 1 ½ games behind the Blue Jays.
"(Stripling) was a shot in the arm coming back from the IL," interim Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. "He was dialed in. He's been a stabilizing force."
The Blue Jays now have won Stripling's last four starts with three no-decisions.
He enjoyed a 67-pitch, five-inning rehab start for triple-A Buffalo last Friday after last pitching on July 30 against the Detroit Tigers.
His no-hit bid was halted when Cedric Mullins began the seventh inning with a single to centre.
"After the fifth inning (the no-hitter) was on my radar," Stripling admitted.
He and catcher Danny Jansen decided in the dugout before the seventh inning to throw some curve balls to Mullins because they hadn't employed that pitch to the Orioles' leadoff hitter.
"I flipped it in there, and I knew it was going to be a strike, and he flipped it out to centre," Stripling said.
On Stripling's 72nd pitch, he retired the next batter, Anthony Santander, with a grounder to first. This sent Schneider to the mound.
Jansen and shortstop Bo Bichette got there first and congratulated their pitcher on his brilliant performance.
But Schneider asked Stripling if he wanted to face the Orioles' Ryan Mountcastle. Stripling, however, admitted he had already "checked out." As a result, he called it a day and departed to a standing ovation from the 40,141 at Rogers Centre.
Reliever Jimi Garcia (2-4) closed the inning and eventually recorded the win after Toronto's offensive outburst in the seventh, in which they sent 11 hitters to the plate.
Teoscar Hernandez and Bichette started with singles to centre field. Springer then hit for Raimel Tapia and delivered a third straight safety to centre to score Hernandez.
It was Springer's 1,000 career hit and first successful pinch hit.
"I have pinch hit before but with not much success," Springer said. "I have a lot of respect for the guys who do it."
Santiago Espinal, who had three hits on Tuesday, drilled a double to right centre to score two more runs.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. walked with the bases loaded, and Alejandro Kirk smashed a double into the left-centre gap to knock in the fifth and sixth runs.
Joey Krehbiel (4-4) yielded the first two hits in the seventh for the loss, but Cionel Perez gave up the Springer single and Espinal double.
Baltimore starter Austin Voth was solid, too. He allowed only two hits and a walk in six innings with three strikeouts.
Robinson Chirinos knocked in the Orioles' only run in the eighth inning with an infield hit.
VETERAN TSUTSUGO SIGNS
The Blue Jays signed Yoshi Tsutsugo to a minor-league contract. He was expected to play left field for triple-A Buffalo.
The 30-year-old Tsutsugo, a left-handed hitting outfielder/first baseman, was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates last week after a .171 average with two homers and 19 RBIs in 50 games this year.
The Blue Jays hit the road for a seven-game stint, beginning Thursday with a four-game series against the New York Yankees and finishing with a three-game set against the Boston Red Sox.
Righty Jose Berrios (8-5) will start the opener at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. The Yankees have yet to name their pitcher, but it's Frankie Montas' (4-9) turn in the rotation. Kevin Gausman (8-9) will pitch for Toronto on Friday. Schneider confirmed Mitch White (1-3) would start on Saturday, with Yusei Kikuchi going to the bullpen.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2022.
Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press