TORONTO (AP) — Pinch-hitter Alejandro Kirk singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, Bo Bichette and Brandon Belt hit solo home runs and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Houston Astros 3-2 Wednesday night.
Chris Bassitt (7-4) gave up two runs and four hits with five strikeouts and no walks over eight innings in winning consecutive starts. Jordan Romano earned his 16th save in 19 chances for the Blue Jays, who have won nine of 12.
Last Friday, after waiting out a 91-minute rain delay, Bassitt pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings to beat the Mets in New York. He flew back to Toronto immediately afterward for the birth of his second child. Son Colson arrived Saturday night.
“His last two outings have been phenomenal,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said.
Bassitt threw 81 pitches, 57 for strikes. Nine of his pitches came on an inning-opening strikeout of Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez in the seventh.
“I had my sinker really working tonight,” Bassitt said. “They were really aggressive on it. When I’m throwing it well and they’re swinging, it’s going to be a lot of quick outs.”
Bassitt is 7-3 with a 2.40 ERA in his last 12 starts.
“He was on one,” Mauricio Dubón said. “He’s been showing the league he’s one of the best in the game and we couldn’t come through.”
Dubón doubled on Romano’s first pitch of the ninth, but couldn’t advance on Jose Altuve’s grounder, or when Toronto center fielder Kevin Kiermaier raced in to make a sliding catch on Alvarez’s sinking liner. Romano struck out Kyle Tucker to end it.
“We just didn’t get it done,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Their guy made a great play in center field. That was a tough one to lose.”
The game was played under a closed roof at Rogers Centre due to air quality concerns due to wildfires in Ontario and Quebec. Air quality concerns are expected to continue into Thursday, when the series concludes.
Daulton Varsho walked on a pitch clock violation to begin the bottom of the seventh after Astros reliever Hector Neris (3-2) was called for an automatic ball with a 3-2 count.
“A big one,” Baker said. “That ended up being the winning run for them and the losing run for us.”
One out and one walk later, Kirk hit for Tyler Heineman and delivered a tiebreaking single to center, scoring Varsho from second base.
Houston had another pitch clock violation in the second inning when José Abreu struck out after plate umpire Adam Beck ruled Abreu was not alert to the pitcher in time. Abreu got ahead in the count 3-1 and fouled off two pitches before being rung up.
“That pitch clock got us twice tonight,” Baker said.
Altuve returned after missing the last four games because of a sore right oblique. He batted second behind Dubón.
Dubón started at shortstop alongside Grae Kessinger, who made his major league debut at third base as Baker gave Alex Bregman his first day off this season.
Alvarez opened the scoring with a two-run home run off Bassitt in the fourth, his 17th of the season. Toronto tied it with a pair of homers off Astros rookie right-hander Ronel Blanco.
Bichette hit a leadoff homer in the bottom of the fourth, his 13th, and Belt tied it with a second-deck drive in the sixth, his fourth.
Making his second career start, Blanco allowed two runs and three hits in six innings. He walked four and struck out five.
“He gave us a great chance,” Baker said. “He just made two mistakes. Both of them were sliders, up and out over the plate.”
Blue Jays: 3B Matt Chapman returned to the starting lineup. He sat Tuesday after having an ingrown toenail removed.
Kirk has four RBI as a pinch hitter this season, the most by any Blue Jays batter in a single season since Rowdy Tellez had four in 2019.
Baker acknowledged that it was difficult to convince Bregman to take a rest.
“He never wants a day off,” Baker said. “He said his dream is to play 162 games. I say ‘Keep on dreaming.’”
José Berríos (5-4, 3.66) starts for the Blue Jays in Thursday’s series finale against Astros LHP Framber Valdez (6-4, 2.16).