Jays' Liriano struggles in home debut in 5-3 loss to Astros
Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, right, is tagged out on the steal attempt at third base by Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson in the fifth inning of their American League MLB baseball game in Toronto on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. (The Canadian Press/Fred Thornhill)
Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, August 12, 2016 10:14PM EDT
TORONTO -- Francisco Liriano got roughed up in his home debut with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 32-year-old, acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates ahead of the trade deadline, surrendered five earned runs over 5 and 2/3 innings in 5-3 loss to the Houston Astros at Rogers Centre on Friday night.
Liriano gave up eight hits, including a home run, walked a pair, hit a batter, and struck out four, a much different performance compared to the six solid innings (two earned runs) he delivered in his debut for the Blue Jays in Kansas City last week. It was more in line, however, with a season-long struggle (5.40 ERA).
Edwin Encarnacion hit his 300th career home run in defeat while Michael Saunders set a new career-high for homers with his 20th of the season.
Former Jays first-round pick (2011) Joe Musgrove dominated in only his second career MLB start, tossing seven innings of two-run ball in front of more than 46,000, striking out seven and walking only one.
Toronto entered play with a half game lead over Baltimore in the race for the American League East crown.
Sharp over the first two innings, Liriano's control slipped away as he scuffled in the top half of the third. The former Pirate walked a pair and then surrendered a single to Alex Bregman to load the bases with only one out. While he retired the league's top hitter in Jose Altuve, Liriano proceeded to give up a hard two-run single to Carlos Correa as the Astros jumped in front 2-0.
The Jays cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the inning. Darrell Ceciliani led off with a double and then moved to third on a single from Devon Travis, the 25-year-old extending his hit streak to eight games (.457 average, 16-35). Josh Donaldson grounded into the double play that scored Ceciliani's first run as a Jay.
The 26-year-old was recalled from Buffalo earlier this week after Kevin Pillar was sent to the disabled list (thumb).
Toronto tied the score 2-2 in the fourth when Saunders launched a long ball. The Victoria, B.C. native sent a 93 MPH sinker from Musgrove over the wall in left-centre. Saunders' previous career-high of 19 homers was set during the 2012 season while he played for the Seattle Mariners.
The 29-year-old entered the night in a funk, batting .156 (5-32) for the month with one extra-base hit, no home runs and only one RBI.
Houston regained control of the lead for good in the fifth, hitting Liriano hard en route to two more runs.
The Astros started the inning with a pair of hits, including a double off the wall by Bregman. Contained earlier, Altuve struck this time with a pair of runners on, tucking a low shot just inside the line at third, past Donaldson and into the left-field corner for a two-run double.
An MVP favourite, Altuve leads Major League Baseball in hits (165), average (.364) and on-base percentage (.429).
Houston added another run for a 5-2 lead in the sixth when centre-fielder Teoscar Hernandez, in his MLB debut, cracked a solo shot to left. It was his first hit in the big leagues.
Liriano hit the next batter and was replaced by Ryan Tepera. Friday marked the 11th time in 24 starts that the big left-hander has allowed four runs or more in a start this season. The Jays are counting on him to provide depth in their unorthodox six-man rotation.
Team manager John Gibbons said earlier in the day that Aaron Sanchez would likely be skipped in that rotation occasionally down the stretch as a precaution. Sanchez (11-2, 2.85 ERA), due to pitch Saturday, has thrown a career-high of 145.1 innings this season.
Encarnacion homered to lead off the ninth inning, a no-doubter to left field off Astros closer Will Harris. In addition to career home run No. 300, the blast was also Encarnacion's 32nd of the season, matching the Orioles' Mark Trumbo for the MLB lead.
A six-foot-five righty picked 46th overall, Musgrove was dealt to Houston in 2012 in a 10-player transaction which saw J.A. Happ end up in Toronto for the first time.
Gibbons added that Ezequiel Carrera, who started a rehab assignment in Buffalo on Friday, was expected to be ready to come off the DL (Achilles) on Tuesday when the Jays visit the New York Yankees.