ATLANTA — David Price is emerging as more than Toronto’s ace. The left-hander is showing he can also be the team’s stopper, the pitcher who can be trusted to halt losing streaks.
Price allowed one run in seven innings, Russell Martin hit a homer and drove in four runs, and the Blue Jays beat Shelby Miller and the Atlanta Braves 9-1 on Wednesday night to protect their lead in the AL East.
Price (16-5) gave up six hits and had nine strikeouts as he improved to 7-1 since coming to Toronto in a trade with Detroit in late July. Four of the seven wins have followed losses; the latest stopped a two-game skid.
Price said he didn’t know so many of his wins had followed losses, but he embraced the stopper role.
“I’ll be that guy,” Price said after taking the AL lead with his 2.42 ERA.
The Blue Jays stayed three games ahead of second-place New York in the division. The Yankees beat the Rays 3-1.
Toronto manager John Gibbons said Price made his strong win look easy, even though he struggled with his location at times.
“He did a nice job picking us up after we lost a couple games,” Gibbons said.
“That’s what we brought him over for and he’s been great.”
Toronto had 12 hits as it returned to its customary high-scoring pace after managing only a combined two runs in the two straight losses. Martin hit a two-run double in the four-run first and added a two-run homer off Ryan Kelly in the ninth.
“It’s the best offence in all of baseball,” Price said.
Miller (5-15) gave up five runs, four earned, in 3 2-3 innings — his shortest start of the season.
“Just kind of didn’t have anything going for me at all, really,” Miller said.
Miller’s streak of 22 winless starts is the longest for any pitcher in a season he was an All-Star. The right-hander has the worst run support in the majors and has 14 losses since his last win on May 17.
Ben Revere drove in two runs with two hits, including a double in the fifth, for Toronto.
The Braves’ run came in the first. Nick Markakis hit a leadoff double and scored on Freddie Freeman’s fly ball. Christian Bethancourt had three hits.
GOOD AS NEW
Toronto 1B Edwin Encarnacion had three hits and two walks in his return after missing two starts with a sore left middle finger.
UNUSUAL 4-6-5 DP
Price walked Bethancourt and pinch-hitter Ryan Lavarnway to open the fifth but then had help from an unusual double play. Second baseman Cliff Pennington couldn’t catch a shallow pop fly by Markakis, but his throw to Goins forced Lavarnway at second. Goins threw to third baseman Josh Donaldson, who tagged Bethancourt when he slid past the bag.
BLUE JAYS: Gibbons said RHP LaTroy Hawkins was available after being held out with right forearm soreness for four days.
BRAVES: RHP Jason Grilli, recovering from surgery on July 17 to repair his ruptured left Achilles tendon, said he hopes to be ready for spring training. He said he’ll soon be free of his walking boot. Grilli was named the Braves’ Roberto Clemente Award nominee. … OF Cameron Maybin was 0 for 4 and struck out in his first three at-bats in his first start since suffering an abrasion in his left eye on Sept. 5.
BLUE JAYS: RHP Marco Estrada will try to give the Blue Jays the series win over the Braves. Estrada (12-8) is 6-3 with a 3.03 ERA since the All-Star break. He is 2-0 in three games, including two starts, against NL teams this season.
BRAVES: Rookie RHP Matt Wisler will try to snap a personal six-game losing streak. His last win was on July 26. Wisler is 5-7 with a 5.60 ERA after winning five of his first six decisions.
Charles Odum, The Associated Press
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