Toronto Blue Jays snap mini skid on Drabek's outing

 

TORONTO -- Kyle Drabek's new state of mind was on full display during his season debut at Rogers Centre on Tuesday night.
Drabek was able to maintain his mechanics and composure on the mound even when the division-rival Red Sox started putting runners in scoring position.


The end result was a strong 5 1/3 innings of work for Drabek while the Blue Jays also rode a balanced attack at the plate to a 7-3 victory over the Red Sox.


"It kind of takes me back to Spring Training a little bit," Drabek said. "Getting into situations like that, calming yourself down and just trying to execute each pitch.


"There were times when there were runners on first and third with no outs and I was able to get out of it. I think seeing that in Spring Training helped me out today just because I've been through it, I knew how to calm myself down and get through the situation."


Drabek arrived in Spring Training with an opportunity to compete for one of the final two spots in the Blue Jays' rotation. Before he was going to receive strong consideration, though, Drabek had to improve his mechanics on the mound.


Too often last year Drabek would fall off to the first-base side of the rubber during his wind-up and lose command of his pitches. To combat that problem, the Blue Jays put yellow lines on the mound during the first couple weeks of camp to keep Drabek on line.


The early season results of that training appeared to pay off on Tuesday, as Drabek maintained a consistent delivery against Boston en route to allowing just three hits and one run.


"He didn't rely on trying to get more velocity," manager John Farrell said of Drabek, who held Boston to 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. "He continued to pitch, I think, the two-seamer that he's using, kept the ball on the ground for the most part and I think tonight was another step in a sign of his maturity as a pitcher. Continue to make pitches rather than just think about reaching back and trying to get extra velocity to try and blow a ball by a guy."


Drabek's only rough inning occurred in the sixth, when he couldn't find the strike zone. The second-year hurler walked the first batter he faced before surrendering a double to second baseman Dustin Pedroia to put runners on second and third with nobody out. Drabek then gave up a sacrifice fly and issued another walk before being taken out of the game.


The right-hander walked three batters and threw 51 of his 91 pitches for strikes. It was his first start in the Majors since June 12, when he allowed eight runs on seven hits and four walks in four innings against Boston.


"He was spotting up pitches a lot better," said Boston's Kevin Youkilis, who went 2-for-4. "He was commanding the zone. He kind of went in and out and knew where the ball was a little bit more than he used to. He got ahead, stayed ahead. He's got great stuff. When you have good stuff and command of pitches, it's tough to hit."


The Blue Jays' offense broke out of its mini-slump with a strong showing against Boston's Daniel Bard. In the first, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion extended his hitting streak to five games with an infield RBI single that scored Yunel Escobar from third base.


The offensive production continued in the third with two more runs on RBI singles by Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie, but the game really broke open in the sixth.


Bard, who was charged with five runs in five-plus innings, allowed the first two batters he faced in the inning to reach base. J.P. Arencibia soon followed with a two-run single up the middle.


Encarnacion put a stamp on the victory with a solo shot in the bottom of the seventh, when he launched an 0-1 pitch from Michael Bowden over the left-field wall. It was an all-around productive day for Toronto's offense, as five different players drove in runs.


"We have that potential," Farrell said. "It's good to see Eddie get off to the start that he has so far. Adam, with a couple of hits tonight, and, I think, really laying off some of the pitches last year that he chased. We're starting to get a couple of more guys involved in the overall offense. We're not anywhere close to where I think we'll be, but we're showing some signs of getting there."

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