Blue Jays beat Astros on Gausman gem, Bichette outburst, Springer catch

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The way the Astros and Blue Jays battled it out with such a slim margin for error and such high competition, there’s a good chance they could reconnect when the stakes in baseball are much higher.

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Both teams are good, and fans at Rogers Center were certainly treated to a top-notch weekend package, capped off by the Jays’ 3-2 victory in the three-game series on Sunday.

With the season’s six-game series between the two teams now on the books — Toronto goes 4-2 — the next time the Jays and Astros can potentially meet again will be in the playoffs. And that would come as no surprise to anyone following the majors.

Sunday’s rubber game was as close to postseason baseball as it gets considering it’s only early May, an afternoon marked by a stellar tee shot, clutch hitting and a highlighted coil defense.

The hits were plentiful in Friday’s series opener when Houston survived an 11-7 slugfest. Saturday and Sunday would see the Jays emerge with one-point wins, with the teams combining to score all eight points.

Bo Bichette’s two-run outburst and Santiago Espinal’s game-winning single were the only hits for the Jays — who only had three the entire game — but that’s all they needed.

Jordan Romano allowed a one-out brace in the ninth and benefited from a remarkable hold from George Springer to register his 11th save.

Fittingly, the match ended when Romano phoned Jeremy Pena — the same Astro who took him deep into the series finale in Houston on a walk-in homer.

Four wins in six games against the Astros and the combined margin of victory was four.

Next up for the Jays is a three-game streak against the Yankees as Toronto wraps up its 10-game home run starting Monday.

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Bichette’s explosion, Springer’s reception in the ninth, and Espinal’s hit to produce the game-winner, none of them would have played if Kevin Gausman hadn’t pitched like he did.

The lanky Jays right-hander engaged in a classic pitching duel with Astros left-hander Framber Valdez, who drove in five innings apiece.

Gausman went seven innings, allowing two earned runs and hitting 10, leading to a season-high 22 swing and misses.

He faced 122 batters this season without issuing walks or home runs. In fact, he joins the immortal Cy Young as the only starters in the World Series era to start a season with five successive outings with no walks and no abandoned home runs (minimum 20 runs total).

Valdez, meanwhile, was equally masterful, serving up a steady diet of flowing pitches that kept Houston’s infielders busy and allowed just three hits.

The first hit, however, had an impact. With Houston up 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth and a runner up front thanks to a hit-and-run from Bradley Zimmer, Bichette homered 343 feet into right field to give the Jays a shocking 2-1 lead.

A brace from Niko Goodrum in the top of the seventh tied the game, but an opening single from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the bottom half, followed by an error from Pena and a single from Espinal on the left allowed the Jays to stay.

Gausman admitted after the game that he didn’t pay much, if any, attention when the opposition starter was weaving a gem. He only became aware of Valdez’s exit when his teammates in the dugout started talking about the no-hitter the southpaw was throwing.

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Knowing that virtually the same Astros team played in last year’s World Series, Gausman knew he had to be on point.

“I think we did a good job mixing up (the locations),” Gausman began. “Throwing fastballs up, throwing fastballs down, and splitting to both sides of the plate. Kirk (receiver Alejandro) did a hell of a job, especially blocking the ball.

“He blocked gaps really well, sliders down, he played a great game overall.”

Kirk even chose a runner at the start.

Zimmer made a nice catch at center, while Bichette, who erred for the second straight game, found a gem throwing to his body with the infield to keep a base runner from Houston on third.

The defensive highlight, however, was again produced by Springer. After Kyle Tucker’s brace on Romano, pinch hitter Alex Bregman rolled in a high-line drive to the right that looked certain to tie the game again. But Springer took him down with a stab on the warning trail, then quickly got up and sent the ball back to the infield as Tucker advanced to third.

“George is amazing,” Gausman said. “He will put his whole body on the line. He will go through a wall, even on a foul ball like you saw (Sunday).

“Having a guy like that is huge. He always gives you confidence. Zimmer was also amazing. I thought Bo had a hell of a play. Lots of really good plays. It’s fun to watch.

The quality of play and the amount of star power on display, Gausman admitted, made it feel like a post-season game.

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“The amount of adrenaline you have on each court, you know you have to be very good,” Gausman said.
“For Romano to close it against the guy who had it last time was really cool. Now we have a big series coming up.

Seven series played to start the season, seven series won, high leverage games and a belief that no hole is too daunting, the Jays couldn’t ask for more, all things considered.

Toronto is yet to lose consecutive games and is now a remarkable 9-2 in one-point games

“Thanks to our pitchers, thanks to our defense and we hit the right time,” manager Charlie Montoyo said.

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