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Slumping Francisco breaks out with monster game

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TORONTO -- After a scorching-hot May, Juan Francisco's bat has cooled down considerably.

Francisco, who signed a Minor League deal with the Blue Jays at the beginning of April, came out blazing following his promotion from Triple-A Buffalo, highlighted by a May in which he hit .284/.365/.649 with seven homers and 20 RBIs. The month-long tear not only kept Francisco up with the Blue Jays, but even had the club move Brett Lawrie off third base to second when right-handers were on the mound to keep the slugger's bat in the lineup.

But the 27-year-old Francisco couldn't keep up the torrid pace. And given his struggles hitting left-handed pitching -- he's a career .165/.212/.220 hitter vs. southpaws -- Francisco needed continued success against righties to justify a spot in the lineup.

Entering play Thursday, Francisco was hitting .186/.243/.392 with five homers, 11 RBIs and 49 strikeouts in 111 plate appearances since June 1.

But in Toronto's 8-0 win over Boston on Thursday, Francisco busted out again. He went 3-for-4, hit his 15th homer of the season, fell a double shy of the cycle and drove in a season-high four runs. It was his third three-hit game of the season and first since May.

"He's dangerous. He will strike fear into you from the other side," manager John Gibbons said following Toronto's fifth win in six games. "He's a potential for a strikeout, but if a mistake is made, he hits a lot of home runs. Hopefully he is heating up at the right time now."

The Blue Jays could use another hot stretch from Francisco, as the club waits for Lawrie and first basemen/designated hitters Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion to return from the disabled list.

In 76 games this season, Francisco is batting .242/.315/.526 and has the highest strikeout rate (39.2%) in the American League, among hitters with a minimum of 200 plate appearances.

Chris Toman is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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