TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays needed some good pitching news Thursday after putting starter Ricky Romero and closer B.J. Ryan on the disabled list.
Scott Richmond answered the call. The native of North Vancouver, B.C., allowed just two runs and struck out a career-high eight over six innings of work as the Blue Jays defeated the Texas Rangers 5-2 before a crowd of 15,487 at the Rogers Centre.
“Richmond did a great job for us tonight, just what we needed, gave us some innings,” said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston.
“One thing about him, he kept us in games last year and I said that all spring that he gives us a chance to win, he throws strikes and that’s part of it.”
Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Alex Rios each hit home runs for Toronto off Kevin Millwood (1-2).
“You can tell around the clubhouse, everybody is real confident,” Overbay said. “It’s fun. It’s a different atmosphere.”
The Rangers starter allowed just five hits over seven innings but three of them were blasts.
The Blue Jays are 12-5 for the first time since 2001. Toronto won the three-game series 2-1, marking the first time the team has won five series to start a season.
Earlier in the day the team announced that Romero has a strained muscle on his right side, while Ryan, who blew a save in Wednesday’s win and has struggled early on, is out with a tight trapezius muscle. Both were placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Rios’ home run with a runner on in the fifth was his first of the season and proved decisive.
Richmond earned his first win of the season April 15 against the Minnesota Twins, pitching a career-high 6 1/3 innings in a 12-2 Toronto victory.
“Just that confidence of that last outing – I brought it into today’s outing,” Richmond said. “We’ve had a couple of bad breaks here to start the season but (Romero and Ryan) are not on long DL stints, you know they’re coming back quick.”
“I’m just trying to focus every time I’m out there to do my job to the best of my ability and to give our bullpen a break and try to go deep into the game. And that’s my objective no matter what’s going on. These guys are going to be back quick.”
Brandon League came for the seventh, while Jesse Carlson and Shawn Camp combined to pitch the eighth.
Scott Downs, who will close in Ryan’s absence, pitched a perfect ninth for first save of the season.
The Blue Jays hit more than one home run in an inning just six times last season. Toronto tied that mark in the second inning when Wells and Overbay went deep for solo shots.
In each case it was their third home run of the season, with Wells leading off the inning by hitting the first-pitch fastball over the fence in left-centre to end a 0-for-14 drought.
It was his 180th career home run with Toronto, moving him past Jesse Barfield (179) and into fourth place all-time. Wells trails now trails Carlos Delgado (336), Joe Carter (203) and George Bell (202).
Overbay took 3-2 fastball over the centre-field fence with two outs to give himself a six-game hitting string.
Josh Hamilton cut the Blue Jays lead to 2-1 with one out in the fourth when he hit a 2-1 fastball to left for his second home run of the season.
Hank Blalock followed with a double to right and Nelson Cruz dumped a single to right that put runners at the corners.
Richmond then struck out Chris Davis on a tight curveball before Cruz stole second and David Murphy walked.
Taylor Tegarden brought his .083 batting average to the plate and lowered it to .077 by striking out on three pitches to end the threat.
“I was able to get out of it and I could build off that and it helped me get into the later innings,” Richmond said.
The Blue Jays took a 4-1 lead in the fifth when Rios homered following an Aaron Hill two-out double. Gaston said hitting coach Gene Tenace is trying to have Rios stand more upright at the plate.
“He’s trying to get him off his back side and it seems to be working,” Gaston said. “Hopefully that will get him rolling.”
Chris Davis hit his third homer of the season with two out in the sixth to make it a 4-2 game.
Scott Rolen’s two-out single against Jason Jennings in the eighth inning scored Toronto’s fifth run.
The Blue Jays announced after the game it has recalled right-hander Bryan Bullington from triple-A Las Vegas. In four relief appearances this season, Bullington is 1-1 with 1.86 ERA.. Another call-up will be announced on Friday.
Notes: Shaun Marcum who had elbow surgery last season could throw in the bullpen in Chicago on Saturday and then have another session in Kansas City. General manager J.P. Ricciardi said that he is probably a little ahead of schedule and that there is an outside chance he could pitch this season. … Dustin McGowan who is coming back from shoulder surgery is scheduled to throw from flat ground on May 1. … Toronto is scheduled to send out Brian Tallet (0-0, 4.26 ERA) on Friday in Chicago against the White Sox Mark Buehrle (2-0, 3.00 ERA) … Ricky Romero who was placed on the disabled list Thursday with a strained right oblique was scheduled to pitch Saturday against Gavin Floyd (2-1, 4.74 ERA) and his place will be taken by a triple-A call-up. … Roy Halladay (3-1, 3.72 ERA) will start Sunday against Jose Contreras (0-3, 8.04 ERA).