TORONTO (AP)Bo Bichette homered and drove in all three runs, Ross Stripling pitched six sharp innings to win his second consecutive start and the Toronto Blue Jays blanked the Cleveland Indians 3-0 Thursday night.
With its ninth shutout, Toronto (57-49) won for the sixth time in seven games since returning north of the border last week and moved a season-best eight games above .500.
Bichette hit a two-run homer in the fourth, his 20th, and added an RBI single in the sixth. Both hits came off right-hander Triston McKenzie (1-5).
Bichette said he and McKenzie, both young players from Florida, have competed against each other for more than a decade and are good friends off the field.
Still, getting the upper hand on an old pal didn’t make Bichette feel too good.
”To get the win is what we want, but I take no glory in hitting homers off my friends,” Bichette said.
Bichette hit a go-ahead homer for the 10th time this season and had his 37th multi-hit game, tying him with Detroit’s Jonathan Schoop for the AL lead.
”One of these years, I don’t know if it’s going to be next year or the year after, he’s going to lead the league in hitting,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said of Bichette. ”He’s that good.”
Stripling (5-6) beat Kansas City as the Blue Jays returned to Rogers Centre last Friday, snapping a four-start winless stretch.
Against Cleveland, Stripling pitched around an error and a walk in the first and didn’t allow a hit until Owen Miller’s one-out single in the fifth. The right-hander gave up three hits, all singles. He walked one and struck out six.
”The changeup took a good step forward today,” Stripling said. ”I was throwing it early in the count, middle of the count, putting guys away with it. I think that was kind of the game-changer for me today.”
Consecutive hits by Amed Rosario and Franmil Reyes gave Cleveland runners at the corners with one out in the sixth, but Stripling ended his outing by striking out Bobby Bradley and getting Harold Ramirez to ground into a fielder’s choice.
”He kind of got us off balance a little bit,” acting Indians manager DeMarlo Hale said.
Stripling is 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA in two starts against the Indians this season after earning his first win with Toronto in a May 30 start at Cleveland.
Trevor Richards worked a perfect seventh, Tim Mayza pitched around a walk in the eighth and Adam Cimber finished with a 1-2-3 ninth, getting the save in his first opportunity of the season.
McKenzie retired the first 10 Blue Jays batters in order before Vladimir Guerrero Jr. singled. One out later, Bichette hammered a 2-0 pitch into the second deck in left.
Bichette’s drive was Toronto’s 164th home run of the season, matching San Francisco for the major league lead.
McKenzie’s seven-inning outing equaled his career high. He allowed three runs and five hits.
”I thought Triston was good,” Hale said. ”He was pounding the zone and mixing his pitches. I’m happy with the performance. The offense just couldn’t muster anything up.”
Blue Jays starting pitchers have a 1.25 ERA over 43 1/3 innings through the first seven games of the current homestand.
Bichette has 15 RBIs in 13 games since moving into the cleanup spot in the batting order.
Indians: C Roberto Perez, scratched from Wednesday’s lineup because of back spasms, got the day off. He will be re-evaluated Friday, Hale said. . RHP Aaron Civale (sprained middle finger) threw his fourth bullpen, mixing in sliders and cutters for the first time. . 3B Jose Ramirez was held out of the starting lineup.
Blue Jays: Montoyo said Guerrero was fine after being hit on the pad on the back of his left hand by a pitch from Bryan Shaw in the eighth.
Indians: RHP Cal Quantrill (2-2, 3.40 ERA) goes Friday as Cleveland returns home to begin a three-game series against Detroit. RHP Matt Manning (2-4, 5.59) starts for the Tigers.
Blue Jays: RHP Alek Manoah (3-1, 2.47 ERA) pitches Friday in the opener of a four-game weekend series against the Red Sox. RHP Nathan Eovaldi (9-6, 3.71) starts for Boston.
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