Blue Jays hand Braves 1st road series loss of season
TORONTO (AP) — Bo Bichette singled home the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning and finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Atlanta Braves 5-2 Saturday.
The Blue Jays won their second straight over the Braves, handing Atlanta its first series loss on the road this season. The Braves had won six straight series away from home to start the year before coming north to Canada.
Bichette finished the game as the major league hits leader with 54.
“He’s so talented,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I hate playing against him but it’s fun to watch him because he’s such a talented young man. The ball explodes off his bat.”
Erik Swanson (2-1) got five outs for the win and Jordan Romano earned his 10th save in 12 chances.
Toronto has won eight straight over Atlanta, sweeping all six games in 2021 before winning the past two. It’s Atlanta’s longest losing streak against a single opponent since 2015, when the Braves lost nine in a row against Washington.
After hitting consecutive singles off A.J. Minter (2-5) in the seventh, Kevin Kiermaier and George Springer pulled off a double steal to put runners at second and third. Bichette drove in Kiermaier with a base hit through a drawn-in infield before Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made it 4-2 with a sacrifice fly.
Toronto's 654 interleague home runs are the most of any big league team, but they didn’t need one to beat the Braves, leaning on baserunning and timely hitting instead.
“I think we can still out-homer people, but it’s fun to play hard and win this way,” Bichette said.
Minter led the NL with 61 scoreless appearances in 2022. This year, he lost three times in four appearances in late April, and has now lost back-to-back games after being on the wrong end of Wednesday’s defeat to Boston.
“You’ve just got to grind through it,” Snitker said. “He will, he’s done it before. He’s a year removed from being one of the most effective relievers in baseball, but this game is cruel. It just keeps testing you.”
Danny Jansen pushed Toronto’s lead to three with an RBI double off Joe Jiménez in the eighth.
Kiermaier had three hits and scored twice, and Whit Merrifield had three stolen bases and an RBI for Toronto.
Atlanta’s Marcell Ozuna hit a two-run homer in the second, his seventh, connecting on a 3-2 pitch from José Berríos.
Guerrero hit a leadoff double in the fourth, punctuating his hit with a headfirst slide into second base. He advanced to third on Matt Chapman’s infield single and scored on Whit Merrifield’s grounder.
Atlanta put runners at the corners with two outs in the top of the fifth but Springer laid out for a diving catch on Eddie Rosario’s liner to end the threat.
“Huge play from George there,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “It kept the game where it should be.”
Toronto tied it in the bottom half when Kiermaier beat out a leadoff double to shallow right, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Bichette’s two-out single.
Atlanta loaded the bases with nobody out against Yimi Garcia in the seventh but couldn’t break the deadlock. Garcia left after getting Sean Murphy to ground into a fielder’s choice. Swanson came on and struck out Rosario, then got Ozzie Albies to fly out.
The Braves have scored four total runs in the past three games, all losses.
“You’re going to go through these stretches,” Snitker said. “You just have to keep fighting.”
Ozuna has homered five times in his past seven games.
Toronto is 11-3 north of the border, the best 14-game home start in team history.
Blue Jays LHP Yusei Kikuchi (5-0, 3.35) puts his unbeaten record on the line in Sunday’s series finale. RHP Collin McHugh (1-0, 3.38) will open for the Braves, his first start since he was with Tampa Bay in 2021.
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