TORONTO—Slowly but surely, Aaron Sanchez is beginning to feel like his old self.
The Blue Jays' right-hander tied a season high with eight strikeouts, and Aledmys Diaz hit his 17th home run as part of an early offensive explosion, as Toronto avoided the sweep with a 10-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays last night.
Making his third start since coming off the disabled list Aug. 25, Sanchez gave up three earned runs on six hits against two walks in a 98-pitch, six-inning performance for his first win since June 3.
Diaz finished 2-for-4, adding a double, a walk, and two runs scored as Toronto (63-76) built a 7-0 lead after the first inning.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Devon Travis each went 3-for-5 while Billy McKinney added his fourth homer as the Jays pounded out 16 hits.
“Great first inning by our guys, allowed me to go out there and pitch my game,” Sanchez said.
“A lot of my career [has been] pitching in tight games so for me to be able to go out there and get a little bit of run support and get locked in, that was huge.”
Sanchez (4-5) threw just 36 innings in 2017 due to a nagging blister after going 15-2 in a 2016 campaign that saw him lead the American League with a 3.00 ERA.
In two starts since returning from a freak injury suffered in June, in which he got a finger on his pitching hand caught in a piece of luggage, he had an 11.88 ERA in a pair no decisions.
But after some early struggles last night, Sanchez settled down for his first quality start since June 15, striking out eight batters for the fourth time in 2018.
“Getting that cushion early on allowed me to go out there and work on things that I've been putting into play in between starts,” Sanchez said.
“What you're starting to see is [catcher Danny Jansen] is finding out what I can do good, and I'm finding out what Danny likes to do.”
Rowdy Tellez added an RBI double on the first pitch of his first major-league at-bat in the sixth for Toronto.
The 23-year-old, who lost his mother to cancer last month, is just the third Jays' player to record a pinch-hit extra-base hit in his first plate appearance.
“Just try not to cry,” Tellez said of what he was thinking as he touched second.
“Pretty emotional moment.”
Tampa starter Tyler Glasnow lasted just 2/3 of an inning—giving up seven earned runs on five hits with two walks, two wild pitches, and two strikeouts.
“When I needed a swing and miss, it really wasn't there,” Glasnow said.
“I don't really think it gets much worse than that.”
Kevin Kiermaier went deep twice against Sanchez for his fifth and sixth homers for Tampa Bay (75-64).
The Rays came in leading the season series 9-2, including Tuesday's 4-0 victory—Tampa's third shutout over its division rivals of 2018.
The visitors also were a season-best 12 games over .500, having won four in a row and 13 of their last 15.
Toronto, meanwhile, had lost seven of its last nine but avoided going 15 games under .500 for the first time since Sept. 26, 2013.
The Jays jumped on Glasnow in a first inning where the home side sent 12 batters to the plate, accented by Diaz's three-run blast that made it 6-0.
Glasnow (1-5) then put two more runners on before Tampa manager Kevin Cash had seen enough.
But Travis singled off Andrew Kittredge to score McKinney on Toronto's sixth hit to make it 7-0.
The surge assured the Jays would avoid an ignominious place in baseball history after the Rays came in having held Toronto to five or fewer hits in seven-straight games to tie the major-league record (since 1920) set by the Baltimore Orioles against the Washington Senators in the late 1960s.
Elsewhere in the AL, Houston dumped Minnesota 9-1, Oakland upended New York 8-2, Seattle beat Baltimore 5-2, Cleveland downed Kansas City 3-1, L.A. bounced Texas 9-3, and Detroit pasted Chicago 10-2.
Over in the NL, Pittsburgh edged Cincinnati 3-2, St. Louis topped Washington 7-6, Miami nipped Philadelphia 2-1, New York beat L.A. 7-3, Chicago downed Milwaukee 6-4, and Colorado shaded San Francisco 5-3
Boston topped Atlanta 9-8 in interleague play.