By Gregor Chisholm and Keegan Matheson
TORONTO -- J.A. Happ vowed in early June that his command would get a lot better. Turns out, he was right all along.
Happ made his second consecutive quality start in the Blue Jays' 7-3 victory over the White Sox on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre. The veteran lefty allowed three runs on eight hits with nine strikeouts and no walks in 6 2/3 innings as Toronto avoided a three-game sweep.
"I feel like the last two have been a lot better," said Happ, who was making his fourth start since coming off the disabled list with a left elbow injury. "I feel like I'm staying in my lanes a little better on each side of the plate, more consistently. That's a good sign for me and there's been a little bit more life to my fastball as well."
Russell Martin and Kendrys Morales each hit two-run homers, while Ryan Goins drove in the go-ahead run with a triple in the sixth. The recently activated Steve Pearce had three hits, including an RBI and two runs scored. The big offensive afternoon came in spite of the fact Toronto was held to one run through the first five innings.
White Sox starter James Shields came away with a no-decision. He cruised through the early portion of his outing, but he allowed one run in the fifth and then a two-run homer to Martin in the sixth that ended Shields' day with the score tied at 3. But righty Anthony Swarzak and the bullpen could not keep the Blue Jays off the scoreboard.
"He gave us a nice outing," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "You tip your cap to him because he did a very, very good job of keeping us there, trying to get us more extension on the front end of the game, and we obviously weren't able to come back from that, but I thought we still played a decent ballgame."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Coming to life: The Blue Jays' offense seemed rather lethargic during the first two games of this series, but that changed in a big way during the sixth. With two out, Martin sent a soaring fly ball to right-center that bounced off the top of the wall for a home run. According to Statcast™, Martin's seventh jack was projected to travel 391 feet and left his bat at 100 mph.
"It felt pretty good off the bat," Martin said. "It wasn't a bad pitch. I think it was like a cutter/slider away. I definitely barreled it, but I wasn't sure. It wasn't a no-doubter by any means, and then I saw on the replay it hit the top of the wall. That might make up for all the times I've hit the ball hard at somebody this year."
Breaking the deadlock: The White Sox finally got to Happ in the fifth by opening the frame with three consecutive singles, including an RBI shot up the middle by Yolmer Sanchez for the game's first run. Happ then retired the next two batters, but Abreu delivered a two-run single to cap an eight-pitch at-bat. Jose Abreu has driven in at least one run in five straight games.
"I thought we were able to battle against Happ, who was throwing the ball pretty well, actually," Renteria said. "I thought that at-bat that Abreu had with two outs, second and third, driving in those two runs there was an excellent at-bat."
"You could feel it. The first two days, we didn't really play great. We played OK, but they kind of beat us up the first night and we haven't capitalized sometimes. It felt good to take a lead for one time in the series, and then the bullpen does what it does." -- Goins, on showing more emotion than normal following his go-ahead triple
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Blue Jays have come from behind to win 21 of 33 games this season. The downside is they have also allowed opponents to score first in five straight games and eight of the last 10.
With two out and three runs in, Kevin Pillar hit a chopper up the middle in the seventh inning. White Sox second baseman Sanchez fielded the ball and threw a one-hopper to Abreu at first. Pillar was called out on the play, but Blue Jays manager John Gibbons wanted to take a closer look. Following a review, the call was confirmed.
WHAT'S NEXT White Sox: After Monday's off-day, left-hander Derek Holland (5-6, 3.79 ERA) will get the ball on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. CT to open a three-game set against the Twins at Target Field. Holland opened June with two tough outings, but bounced back in his last start by holding the Orioles to one run over six innings.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marco Estrada (4-5, 4.54) will take the mound on Monday at 8:05 p.m. ET when the Blue Jays open a four-game series against the Rangers at Globe Life Park. Estrada will be looking to end a recent skid that has seen him allow 10 homers over his last 44 1/3 innings.