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The Blue Jays next goal in the standings has to be mediocrity, but nobody said it was going to be easy.
The Jays had won three in a row heading into Tuesday and were attempting to win four straight road games for the first time since 2016.
But the World Series champion Astros bounced back from Monday’s loss with a 7-0 win at Minute Maid Park to set up Wednesday’s afternoon contest to decide the series.
The Jays already surprised the baseball world in the opening game of the series beating Justin Verlander with four homers and some great defence.
In Game 2 it was just as unlikely a win scenario for the Jays facing right-hander Charlie Morton, facing young left-hander Ryan Borucki, making his major-league debut.
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Borucki did not want to leave anyone out as he rolled through the Jays’ dugout following his pre-game warm-up.
He fist-bumped his way down the length of it towards the plate, finally being forced to tap Teoscar Hernandez on the shoulder with fist poised, finishing up with hitting coach Brook Jacoby. A career had begun.
Borucki, 24, in front of family and friends who had flown from Illinois for his debut, worked six solid innings allowing two runs on six hits with four walks and three strikeouts. He threw 95 pitches, a number that he had matched or exceeded six times in 13 Triple-A starts. The only difference is the elevated stress level.
The No. 8 ranked prospect in the Jays organization, Borucki pitched four shutout innings before eventually giving up a pair in the fifth on a two-out bouncing ground ball single into centre field by Evan Gattis. Borucki went back out to the mound and threw a scoreless sixth. It was the 15th quality start by a Jays pitcher in making his debut and the first since Zach Stewart in 2011.
Morton, who emerged as a starting force in the 2017 post-season, struck out 13 Jays in seven innings, thanks to a devastating curveball. The Jays best scoring opportunity came with two outs in the sixth. Justin Smoak stroked what looked like a game-tying double off the left field wall, but centre-fielder Jake Marisnick, a former Jays farmhand, raced over and leaped against the fence to make the catch.
Marisnick removed any ninth inning doubts regarding the decision for the Astros launching a three-run homer to left off Preston Guilmet in the eighth. Alex Bregman capped the scoring with a two-run homer off lefty Tim Mayza.
The Jays received bad news from minor-league camp on Tuesday. Third-baseman Josh Donaldson, believed to be in the final days of rehabbing his injured left calf before returning to the major-league team on the next homestand, pulled himself from the field with pain in the calf. An MRI revealed an acute strain of the calf muscle that will be re-evaluated in three weeks.
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Meanwhile left-hander Jaime Garcia, currently on the 10-day disabled list with shoulder issues, will see a specialist on Thursday and then return to the Jays’ training facility in Florida to continue his rehab. With Aaron Sanchez and Garcia on the DL, that has meant an opportunity for Sam Gaviglio and Borucki. Sanchez, out with a finger contusion, is eligible to return on July 2 vs. the Tigers.
Richard Griffin is a sports columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @rgriffinstar