Bo Bichette, Ross Stripling lead surging Blue Jays for 3rd straight win over Cleveland

A two-run blast from Bo Bichette in the fourth and six scoreless innings from starter Ross Stripling kept the good times rolling for the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Thursday.

Bichette added a two-out RBI single to centre field in the sixth inning to spur the Blue Jays to a 3-0 win and its sixth victory in seven starts since returning to their home field after a 22-month absence because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Blue Jays (57-49) have gone 24-14 in their last 38 outings for a .632 win percentage, tops in the American League since June 19.

The three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals and taking three of four from Cleveland sets up the Blue Jays for a critical four-game weekend series against the Boston Red Sox, which begins in Toronto on Friday.

Toronto has its big four starters ready to rumble. Alek Manoah (3-1) will get the call on Friday, followed by Robbie Ray (9-5) and newcomer Jose Berrios (8-5) for Saturday’s doubleheader and Hyun Jin Ryu (11-5) for the finale on Sunday.

Toronto will enter the series 2.5 games behind the Oakland A’s in the race for the final American League wild-card spot.

Stripling (5-6) got off to a rocky start because of an error from first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., on a grounder from Cleveland leadoff batter Bradley Zimmer and a one-out walk to designated hitter Franmil Reyes.

But Stripling settled down to retire the next 12 hitters he faced, and an Oscar Mercado groundout gave the Blue Jays righty a no-hitter through 5 1/3 innings.

However, light-hitting second baseman Owen Miller checked in with Cleveland’s first hit, a single to left field, on the very next at-bat.

After striking out Zimmer to begin the sixth, Stripling yielded back-to-back, hard-hit singles to right field to Amed Rosario and Reyes to put runners on first and third.

But Stripling battled back to strike out Bradley and erase Harold Ramirez with a forceout to Bichette.

Stripling stuck out six and allowed three hits in his six innings for his second win in a row. He kicked off the Blue Jays’ strong first week back at the Rogers Centre with a win against the Royals last Friday.

Toronto relievers Trevor Richards, Tim Mayza and Adam Cimber each pitched an inning to close the deal.

In the eighth inning, Guerrero was hit on the left hand by Cleveland reliever Bryan Shaw, but the Blue Jays first baseman stayed in the game.

Cleveland starter Triston McKenzie (1-5) retired the first 10 Blue Jays in order. But Guerrero broke up his no-hit bid by drilling a one-out single through the left side of the infield in the fourth.

After Marcus Semien fouled out to third baseman Ernie Clement, Bichette smacked his 20th homer on a 2-0 slider into the first row of the second deck in left field for a two-run advantage.

Semien slammed a two-out double to left in the sixth and scored on Bichette’s single up the middle.

McKenzie went seven innings with five hits, four strikeouts and no walks. But he hasn’t won since a decision against Kansas City went his way on May 6.