- 142 wins
- 110 wins
ST. LOUIS -- Toronto first baseman Adam Lind waved around a picture of pitcher Carlos Villanueva taking a big swing at the plate in the Blue Jays' clubhouse as a joke prior to Saturday's contest at St. Louis.
As it turned out, it was Villanueva's batting eye -- not his right arm -- that may have spelled the difference in the Blue Jays' 6-3 victory before 40,289 at Busch Stadium.
Villanueva triggered a five-run outburst in the third inning with a leadoff walk that seemed to unnerve St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia, who promptly walked Yunel Escobar, as well.
The two free passes set the stage for a huge frame that produced just one hit -- a three-run homer by Juan Rivera.
"A couple pitches went my way, and we had a productive inning," said Villanueva. "I'm not the best hitter. What I did, was try to make him throw as many pitches as possible.
"I know when I'm out there, I don't want to go deep in the count against the pitcher."
Villanueva, who is 5-for-64 (.078) at the plate in his career, was somewhat used to batting from his days in Milwaukee. In his previous start against the Reds, he went 0-for-2 at the dish, but took several mighty cuts -- much to the delight of his teammates. Lind got a kick out of Villanueva's hard swing, and took the trouble to obtain a photo of the moment.
As it turned out, Villanueva's five-ball free pass was one of the turning points in the contest.
"He wanted to wait Garcia out in that situation," said Toronto manager John Farrell. "He's accustomed to being at the plate."
"The last thing you want to do is walk the pitcher," Garcia explained, "especially from an American League team."
Following a second five-pitch walk, this one to Escobar, Aaron Hill moved the runners over with a productive groundout. The Cardinals then chose to give Jose Bautista his 12th intentional walk of the season to load the bases.
Lind followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. The Blue Jays then took the lead when St. Louis third baseman Daniel Descalso threw wildly to first on a grounder by J.P. Arencibia.
Rivera made the Cardinals pay for Descalso's throwing error with his sixth homer of the season, a line-drive shot over the wall in left.
"He got me out [earlier] with a changeup, so I was looking for the changeup," said Rivera. "Any pitcher gets me out with one pitch, I'm looking for it next time."
Villanueva and the red-hot bullpen did the rest.
Jon Rauch, Marc Rzepczynski and Frank Francisco kept the St. Louis offense under control the rest of the way. Rzepczynski came on with one out in the eighth and got Lance Berkman to ground into an inning-ending double play with just one pitch.
"I went with the fastball, and the good thing was that it sunk," said Rzepczynski.
Francisco allowed a run in the ninth, but induced Ryan Theriot to ground out for the final out, as lightning flashed across the sky.
Villanueva allowed two runs on five hits over six innings, improving to 5-1. He was coming off a 2-1 loss in Cincinnati, which snapped a personal eight-game winning streak.
"He made big pitches to keep a big inning from happening," said Farrell. "He battled through and kept the game under control."
Edwin Encarnacion hit his third home run of the season in the ninth to push the lead to 6-2.
The Jays won their second game in a row after losing four straight. They improved to 4-4 on this current 11-day, 10-game, four-city trip, which concludes with a makeup game in Detroit on Monday.
Steve Overbey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.