TORONTO — Kevin Gausman's strong seven-inning outing Tuesday night came at the perfect time for the Toronto Blue Jays and their overworked bullpen.
He tied a career-high with 13 strikeouts in a 5-1 victory over the Houston Astros.
"It's workmanlike, it's professional, he's one of the best pitchers in the game," said Blue Jays manager John Schneider.
George Springer, Daulton Varsho and Bo Bichette homered as Toronto won for the fifth time in six games.
Gausman (5-3) allowed one earned run and four hits. His performance came a day after the Toronto relievers were taxed heavily when starter Alek Manoah lasted one-third of an inning in an 11-4 series-opening loss.
"A lot of times a day like yesterday can put you in a little bit of a bind for a couple days," Schneider said. "I think what Kev did tonight kind of reset us a little bit."
Manoah was sent down to the Florida Complex League on Tuesday afternoon.
Gausman didn't walk a batter in his 101-pitch outing and reached double digits in strikeouts for a major-league best sixth time this season.
"No walks is more important to me than the 13 strikeouts," he said. "I'm just out there trying to make good pitches. I made a lot of good pitches with two strikes."
Erik Swanson worked the eighth inning and Trevor Richards handled the ninth for Toronto (34-28).
Mauricio Dubon homered for the Astros (36-25), who lost for the fourth time in their last 12 games. Houston starter Hunter Brown (5-3) gave up three earned runs and three hits over six innings.
Dubon turned on Gausman's second pitch of the game for his first career leadoff home run.
The lead held until Springer's two-run shot in the third inning. His ninth homer of the year barely cleared the wall in left-centre field.
Varsho made it a two-run advantage in the fourth with a solo shot that needed a crew chief review to be confirmed.
A replay showed the ball hit a railing behind the fence and bounced back into the field of play. It was Varsho's 11th homer of the season.
Bichette hit a solo shot in the eighth inning for his team-leading 13th homer of the year.
"We're able to play small ball and we're also able to play long ball," Varsho said. "Obviously we have a lot of guys that can do that and obviously we're going to score a lot of runs that way."
Whit Merrifield added an RBI double that plated Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with another insurance run.
Announced attendance was 30,079 and the game took two hours 23 minutes to play.
The Rogers Centre's retractable roof was open despite elevated air quality health index levels due to drifting smoke from wildfires in Quebec and Ontario.
"It was a little hazy," Schneider said. "It seemed like a college Thursday night at some points out there."
Environment Canada issued a special air quality statement for a large section of southern Ontario.
Santiago Espinal started at third base for the Blue Jays after being reinstated from the 10-day injured list earlier in the day.
He filled in for Matt Chapman, who's day to day after having an ingrown toenail removed late Monday night.
Right-handers were scheduled to square off Wednesday. Chris Bassitt (6-4, 3.41 earned-run average) was tabbed to start for the Blue Jays against Ronel Blanco (1-0, 4.15).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2023.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press