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Jays hope to stay locked in versus woeful Astros

10:58 AM, Jul 27, 2013   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - The Toronto Blue Jays hope to stay locked in as they host the Houston Astros for the third part of a four-game set on Saturday at Rogers Centre.

Edwin Encarnacion homered twice during an eight-run seventh inning that helped power the Blue Jays over the Astros, 12-6, to take the second game of the series after they coasted to a 4-0 win in the opener to end a seven-game losing streak.

"I don't think it can get any better than that," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "(Encarnacion's) having another great year, he really he is. He's been steady all year. He hit into a lot of tough luck early in the season. But I think he's been as steady as probably anyone in baseball."

Encarnacion became just the second player in franchise history, joining Joe Carter, to homer twice in an inning. Encarnacion went 3-for-4 with five total RBI and a walk. Toronto totaled 15 hits in the game including the solo shots by Jose Reyes, Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie.

Reyes went 3-for-3 in the in with a pair of walks, finishing a triple shy of the cycle. He is 6-for-7 at the plate thus far in the series.

Josh Johnson will head to the hill for the hosts on Saturday as he looks to lead them to their first three-game winning streak since they had an 11-game streak snapped on June, 24.

Johnson's last win came on June 23, as Toronto has gone winless in his five starts since. The 6-foot-7 righty gave up five earned runs on seven hits in just two innings of work in his last outing. Johnson's poor showing dropped him to 1-6 on the year with a 5.66 ERA, which is dramatically higher than his career ERA of 3.33.

The Astros will try to turn things around with the left-handed Dallas Keuchel on the mound. Keuchel is 4-5 with a 4.42 ERA this season, but he hasn't given up more than three earned runs in three consecutive starts. The 25-year old took a no decision on Monday after surrendering just one run on five hits in six innings against Oakland. He has never faced Toronto before in his career.

Astros left fielder Marc Krauss performed well at the plate in the second game of the series, going 2-for-4 with a double, a home run and four RBI. J.D. Martinez and Brett Wallace also delivered multi-hit games in the losing effort, but the team failed to acquire timely base knocks as it left nine on base.

Houston's bullpen has lacked reliability in recent weeks, allowing at least one run in 10 straight games while posting an 8.01 ERA during that span.

"It's not good," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "At this stage of the season, you would think that guys would get better. That has not happened. We are in a complete funk as far as the bullpen goes, and I'm trying to find someone down there other than [closer Jose] Veras to come in and give us quality innings, and it's just not happening right now."

The Astros won five of the first six games played by the two franchises, including a three-game sweep in Houston in 2005 and two of three in Toronto in 2011.

Houston has the worst record in baseball at 34-68, which includes a 16-31 mark in road games. Toronto is in last place in the AL East at 47-55 and is 27-27 at home.

The Sports Network

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