By IAN HARRISON, Associated Press
TORONTO (AP) — The better J.A. Happ pitches for the Toronto Blue Jays, the better the chance he finishes the season with another team.
Happ pitched a season-high 8 1/3 innings to win his fifth straight decision, Kendrys Morales hit a two-run home run and the Blue Jays beat the Atlanta Braves 5-4 Wednesday for Toronto’s seventh win in eight home games.
Happ (9-3) allowed four runs and six hits, walked none and struck out eight. The veteran left-hander is the first big league pitcher to record four starts this season with at least eight strikeouts and no walks.
“He’s got good life on his fastball,” Atlanta’s Nick Markakis said. “He’s always been a thorn in the side.”
With Toronto well behind in both the AL East and the wild card standings, Happ could be a candidate for a midseason trade to a contender.
“I know he’s in demand and I can see why,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “If we were on the other end of it, I’d want him, too.”
Happ is in the final season of a three-year, $36 million contract.
“I signed to play here and try to help this team get to the playoffs,” Happ said. “I know there may be rumors out there, but I like it here and my focus is here.”
Happ improved 4-0 with a 2.72 ERA in nine career starts against the Braves.
“We knew going in it was going to be a tough ride,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said.
Happ had retired 18 of 19 before Freddie Freeman and Markakis hit back-to-back singles with one out in the ninth.
Ryan Tepera came on and gave up an RBI single to Kurt Suzuki, struck out Charlie Culberson, then allowed an RBI single to Ender Inciarte, putting the tying run at second. Tepera finished it by getting Johan Camargo to fly out, earning his fifth save in eight opportunities
Morales, who turned 35 Wednesday, went 2 for 3 and scored twice. He homered in the first, walked and scored in the fourth, singled in the fifth, and flied out in the eighth.
Suzuki and Peter Bourjos hit solo home runs for the Braves, who lost for the second time in eight games. Atlanta began the day with an NL-best record of 43-29.
Braves right-hander Anibal Sanchez (3-1) allowed four runs and five hits in five innings.
“It wasn’t bad, wasn’t great,” Snitker said. “He kept us in the game, gave us a chance.”
Sanchez is 0-2 with a 9.19 ERA in his past three starts against the Blue Jays.
After Morales hit a two-out drive off Sanchez, his sixth homer of the season, Suzuki connected in the second, his eighth, and Bourjos tied it in the third with his first homer of the season.
Toronto broke the deadlock in the fourth when Randal Grichuk hit an RBI double and Aledmys Diaz followed with a sacrifice fly.
Blue Jays infielder Yangervis Solarte made it 5-2 with a two-out RBI single off A.J. Minter in the seventh.
WALK THIS WAY
Blue Jays C Russell Martin has walked at least once in eight straight games, matching a career-long stretch. Martin, who walked twice Wednesday, also walked in eight straight in 2013.
Morales has four home runs and eight RBIs in eight career games on his birthday.
THRIVING WITH FIVE
Toronto is 28-1 when scoring five or more runs.
Braves: Markakis started at designated hitter, the first time this season he hasn’t played one of the corner outfield spots.
Blue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman (shoulder) will be activated off the disabled list to start at the Angels on Saturday, Gibbons said. Stroman is 0-5 with a 7.71 ERA in seven starts. … 3B Josh Donaldson (left calf) left the team Wednesday and will continue working out at Toronto’s spring training facility in Florida. Donaldson will not begin a rehab assignment until he is able to run the bases at full speed.
Braves: Atlanta is off Thursday before opening a three-game home series against Baltimore on Friday. LHP Sean Newcomb (8-2, 2.70 ERA) starts for the Braves. Newcomb has won eight of his past nine decisions. The Orioles have not named a starter.
Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez (3-5, 4.35) starts the opener of a four-game series against the Angels. Sanchez is 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA in three June starts. LHP Tyler Skaggs (6-4, 2.81) starts for Los Angeles.
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