Burnett boosts Jays to ninth straight win
Toronto remains a factor in chase for AL Wild Card spot
CHICAGO -- A.J. Burnett led the way for the Blue Jays, and Lyle Overbay got it done for the offense.
But the real story behind the 3-1 Blue Jays victory over the White Sox in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader at U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday was the nine straight games Toronto has won.
It is the longest winning streak by the Blue Jays since they won 11 in a row from Aug. 27-Sept. 7, 1998, and it's a streak that single-handedly has kept them close enough in the Wild Card race to keep fighting.
The Blue Jays (77-66) are eight games behind the Red Sox for the American League Wild Card spot and 8 1/2 games back of the Rays in the AL East, heading into Tuesday night's action. If the Rays beat the Red Sox on Tuesday night, the Jays stand to gain a game and a half on Boston if they can win their nightcap.
"I hope we just keep rolling," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "We're on a good streak, and let's win as many as we can. I hope it doesn't stop."
Burnett (17-10) kept the White Sox hitless through the first five innings before surrendering a leadoff single to Orlando Cabrera in the sixth. Some thought scoring it a hit was questionable.
Cabrera hit a hard grounder to Scott Rolen at third base, but the ball bounced off the top of his glove and skipped into left field. Official scorekeeper Don Friske ruled the play a hit, and it was the only one Burnett would allow.
The call might have been more controversial had Burnett lasted long enough to see the game through. After seven innings, the hard-throwing right-hander had tossed 112 pitches.
"It happens," Burnett said of Rolen's play. "I wasn't thinking about [a no-hitter]. I mean, you see the no hits up there, but we had a long way to go even if it [wasn't a hit]."
Gaston agreed with the ruling.
"The ball was hit pretty hard," he said. "On turf, Rolen probably catches that ball. But it was hit pretty hard. I would say it was a hit. A few other guys had some bad hops out there today."
The lone White Sox run scored later in the sixth, after John McDonald committed his first of two errors on the day. Burnett also committed an error in the third, as an otherwise outstanding defense looked mortal.
Only the Astros have committed fewer errors than the Blue Jays this season.
"[Burnett] pitched a great ballgame for us today," Gaston said. "There was a couple times we got him in trouble and then we got him out. That double-play ball [in the sixth], you can give that to Johnny Mac 20 more times and he wouldn't miss that ball. We certainly got around that and stayed in the ballgame."
All told, Burnett allowed just the one unearned run and one hit over seven innings. He struck out seven and only walked one.
"[It was the] best I've seen him," Gaston added. "That's for sure. Absolutely."
White Sox starter Javier Vazquez was almost as good as Burnett, keeping the Jays off the scoreboard until the sixth. With two outs, Vernon Wells and Adam Lind singled to set up Overbay.
Overbay worked the count full and fouled off a few more pitches before Vazquez missed his spot on the ninth pitch. Overbay drilled a double off the right-field wall that scored both runners.
"You want to get a good pitch and try to get one run," Overbay said. "It just seemed like the way the game was going, we weren't going to score a lot of runs. They weren't going to score a lot of runs, so that was a big at-bat.
"He made some good pitches. I fouled a couple pitches off, and he kind of made a mistake on that last pitch and I took advantage. It helped out that it was a 3-2 count and Lindy was able to start running. I don't know if he would have scored if he wasn't running on the pitch."
B.J. Ryan came on in the ninth and got into early trouble, walking the first two batters he faced. But he settled down and struck out Alexei Ramirez and Nick Swisher to earn his 28th save of the season.
It's too bad the Blue Jays aren't in the AL Central. They are 22-10 against those teams this season, including five straight wins over the White Sox. The Jays swept the Sox in a four-game game series at the Rogers Center back in May.
David Just is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.