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Jays stretch winning streak to four games with victory over Royals

TORONTO - Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Dustin McGowan might want to pick up a dinner bill on the road for teammates Shannon Stewart and Alex Rios.


TORONTO - Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Dustin McGowan might want to pick up a dinner bill on the road for teammates Shannon Stewart and Alex Rios.

Two strong throws from the outfielders loomed large for McGowan on Sunday as the starter ended a personal slump and helped extend the Blue Jays' winning streak to four games with a solid performance in a 3-1 victory over the sliding Kansas City Royals (21-29) at the Rogers Centre.

Rios and Stewart gunned out scoring threats in the fourth and fifth innings, allowing McGowan (3-4) to escape jams and propel the Jays (27-25) to two games over .500, tying a season high.

"They played great behind me," McGowan (3-4) said after winning for the first time in four starts. "Rios throwing a runner out at home was big, and (Stewart) throwing a runner out at third was also big. That was really nice."

The Jays have a chance to equal a season-high winning streak of five games Monday in the series finale against the Royals, losers of seven in a row.

McGowan reversed a disturbing trend as he didn't walk a single batter Sunday in his seven-inning outing after issuing nine free passes in his previous two starts. But the improved effort may have resulted in a no-decision or a loss if not for the fine work of Stewart and Rios before a crowd of 29,315.

With the Jays up 1-0 in the fourth inning, Rios fired an excellent throw from centre to catcher Rod Barajas, nailing Jose Guillen at the plate after the designated hitter tried to score from second on a Billy Butler single.

McGowan's biggest trouble spot came one inning later when the Royals loaded the bases with three consecutive singles - two of them on bunts - with no out and the Jays still nursing a 1-0 lead.

But Kansas City came up with just one run in the inning thanks in part to a good play by Stewart in left. Stewart caught a fly ball from David DeJesus and then threw to third, instead of home, to beat a tagging-up Tony Pena for a double play.

"That's the play of the game," said McGowan, who gave up nine hits.

After that sacrifice fly, McGowan struck out Esteban German to keep the game tied. Good defence was on display all over the field. Barajas caught Ross Gload stealing second after shortstop Marco Scutaro reached out like a wide receiver to snag the throw in the second. In the ninth, Scutaro went deep into the hole to pick up a grounder from Butler before making a sharp throw to first to help B.J. Ryan record his 11th save.

The nice plays in the field are coming in handy for a team that hasn't lit up the scoreboard for most of the season.

"We're not tearing anything up, but everybody is playing well all the way down the lineup," said Jays third baseman Scott Rolen, who opened the scoring with a two-out RBI double in the first.

Rios had another two-out RBI on a single in the seventh to extend the lead to 3-1. A fielder's choice from Stewart cashed in the run that broke the tie in the bottom of the fifth.

The Jays need McGowan to continue pitching like he did Sunday. He struck out seven and threw just 90 pitches, 63 of them for strikes. The pitch count stayed low because McGowan cut off his bad habit of walking batters.

"Walks generally come back to haunt you, they put you in a tough position, they use up pitches," Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He's going to walk some guys. When you get those kind of arms, sometimes that happens. (But) he looked much better.

"He has been in a little bit of a rut. (Sunday) was a boost for him.

Meanwhile, Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay set a team record by reaching base in his 12th consecutive plate appearance with a walk in the second inning, breaking Tony Fernandez's old mark of 11 from 1999.

Overbay received a round of applause from the crowd when a message on the Jumbotron congratulated him for the feat prior to his next at-bat. The streak ended when DeJesus made a nice catch in foul territory in left on Overbay in the fourth.

"That's just I think a lot of luck more than anything," Overbay said of the streak. "We got the win, that's all that matters ... I'll look back, but I'll probably forget about it."

Notes: After missing the past three games with a stiff neck, Blue Jays DH Matt Stairs returned to the lineup Sunday and batted fifth ... Stewart and Barajas both extended their hit streaks to 10 games ... Blue Jays SS John McDonald (right ankle) will begin his rehab stint Monday in Dunedin.

 
 
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