Things are finally starting to go the Toronto Blue Jays' way.
Seeking a season high-tying fourth consecutive win, host Toronto tries to sweep the slumping Texas Rangers for the first time in three seasons Sunday.
While the Blue Jays (27-34) entered the year expected to compete for the AL East crown, they instead find themselves at the bottom of the division. Toronto, though, is showing signs of life, winning four of five to give it 14 victories in the past 24 games.
After taking the series opener 6-1 on Friday, the Blue Jays beat the Rangers 4-3 in 18 innings Saturday, matching the longest game in both clubs' history. Toronto collected 15 hits, none bigger than Rajai Davis ' game-winning, two-out single.
"Relief, a lot of relief," Davis said. "Thank God, wow. I think it's the longest game of my career."
The Blue Jays, who won four straight May 11-15, haven't swept the Rangers (36-25) since taking three matchups May 14-16, 2010.
Toronto will send Josh Johnson (0-2, 5.40 ERA) to the hill to help accomplish that feat. The right-hander was sharp in his first start back since missing more than five weeks due to inflammation in his triceps, giving up two runs over seven innings of a 2-1 loss at San Francisco on Thursday.
While Johnson - a two-time All-Star - has yet to live up to expectations since being acquired from Miami in the offseason, the Jays are hoping he'll provide a big lift.
"It felt good to be out there and to go to battle with these guys," he told MLB's official website. "I finally had that bite I have been looking for where (my curveball) wasn't up and out, it was out and then down. It kind of keeps the hitters off balance. I was able to change speeds on a couple of them and I think it started with my slider."
In his only matchup with Texas, Johnson allowed one run and struck out seven in as many innings during a 3-2 loss June 15, 2010, while with the Marlins.
The Rangers have dropped eight of 12 and a season high-tying three straight, a losing streak in which they've gone 4 for 34 with runners in scoring position. Texas, 1 for 19 in those situations Saturday, has been outscored 49-25 while dropping seven of eight on the road.
"We kept putting ourselves in position to get something done and it didn't happen," manager Ron Washington said. "'But I'll keep taking us putting ourselves in position. Pretty soon, we'll break through."
The Rangers will try to get on track behind rookie Justin Grimm (5-4, 5.13), who was hit hard in a 17-5 loss at Boston on Tuesday. The right-hander allowed a career-high eight runs before being removed with two outs in the second inning.
"I didn't feel in control at all. My fastball command wasn't there, some other things weren't there," he said. "There's no need to overthink it. That's an easy fix. I feel confident I can fix it."
Making his first appearance against Toronto, Grimm will need to be wary of Adam Lind , who's 27 for his last 56 with two homers and 11 runs.
Texas' Adrian Beltre went 1 for 8 on Saturday, but he's batting .379 with four homers and nine RBIs during a 13-game hitting streak.
|June 07, 2013||Nelson Cruz||Day-to-Day||Hamstring|
|June 06, 2013||Mitch Moreland||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|June 05, 2013||Mitch Moreland||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left hamstring|
|June 01, 2013||Adrian Beltre||Day-to-Day||Left game - Left hamstring tightness|
|May 18, 2013||Ian Kinsler||15-Day DL||Right intercostal strain|
|May 16, 2013||Alexi Ogando||15-Day DL||Right biceps tendinitis|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|June 03, 2013||Ramon Ortiz||15-Day DL||Right elbow strain|
|June 02, 2013||Ramon Ortiz||Day-to-Day||Left game - right elbow|
|June 01, 2013||Brandon Morrow||15-Day DL||Right forearm strain|
|May 28, 2013||Brett Lawrie||15-Day DL||Left ankle sprain|
|May 28, 2013||Brett Lawrie||Day-to-Day||Ankle sprain|
|May 19, 2013||Darren Oliver||15-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
TORONTO (AP) -- For a guy who never even got in the game during Saturday's 18-inning marathon, Rangers closer Joe Nathan sure put in plenty of work, warming up nine times as the bullpen emptied around him.
Fortunately for Texas, Nathan still had enough energy left to escape a ninth-inning jam Sunday and wrap up a much-needed victory.
Adrian Beltre hit a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning, Nelson Cruz and David Murphy also connected and the Rangers rallied from a four-run deficit to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-4.
"To come back after a tough game yesterday and get a win here is huge," said Nathan, who picked up his 19th save in 20 chances, helping the Rangers avoid a three-game sweep and their first four-game losing streak of the season.
Nathan said he might have been busier Saturday than teammate Ross Wolf , who worked 6 2-3 innings of relief.
"I think I may have thrown more pitches than he did," the veteran closer joked.
Despite feeling worn down by that heavy workload of warmup tosses, Nathan insisted he still wanted to pitch Sunday.
"I told them I didn't feel my best at the beginning of the day, but I was definitely good to go," he said. "It actually surprised me how good I did feel when I got out there. This is the best I've felt all year. Like I've always said, adrenaline is a great drug."
Beltre said he was impressed with Nathan's resilience.
"He came back today and looked better than the first week of the season," Beltre said. "He was throwing in the mid-90s (mph). He was terrific today. We needed him big-time."
Neal Cotts (2-0) worked one inning for the win, and Beltre hit an opposite-field shot to right off Neil Wagner for his 14th homer of the season as the Rangers recorded their biggest comeback of the year, avenging Saturday's grueling 4-3 loss.
Wagner (1-1) had pitched 7 2-3 scoreless innings since being promoted from Triple-A Buffalo on May 29.
Cruz hit a solo homer in the fourth, his team-leading 15th. He finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs. Beltre went 2 for 4 with a walk, extending his hitting streak to 14 games.
"It was huge," Beltre said of the victory, just the second for Texas on a six-game road trip. "We haven't been playing well lately in every phase of the game."
Adam Lind hit a three-run homer for the Blue Jays, who had won three straight.
Pinch-hitter Maicer Izturis walked to begin the bottom of the ninth and advanced to second when Elvis Andrus bobbled Munenori Kawasaki 's grounder to shortstop for an error.
Both runners advanced on Melky Cabrera 's sacrifice bunt before Jose Bautista struck out on three pitches, then was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Gary Darling. Bautista jawed with Darling, then tossed his bat, helmet and elbow pad on the field in protest before leaving. The ejection was his first of the season.
Nathan closed it out by getting Edwin Encarnacion to pop out to second.
"It was definitely nice to actually come in today and feel pretty good," Nathan said. "I was a little worried about it."
The Blue Jays took a 4-0 lead with a two-out rally in the third. Cabrera walked, Bautista reached on an infield single when second baseman Jurickson Profar slipped, and Encarnacion hit an RBI single. Lind followed with a three-run drive to center, his sixth.
Making his second start since missing 31 games with a right triceps injury, Josh Johnson allowed three runs and five hits in five innings for Toronto. He walked four and struck out four.
"Ideally we were looking for more innings, but that didn't happen," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Johnson didn't allow a hit until Cruz's two-out homer in the fourth. Murphy followed with a walk and scored on a double by Chris McGuiness , the first hit and RBI of his career.
Johnson left the dugout after the fourth to have trainers examine a blister on his middle finger. He said the blister didn't affect his performance, adding that he doesn't expect it to keep him from making his next start.
"I'm not going to make excuses and make that the reason why I was throwing balls and walking people," Johnson said. "I've still got to make pitches and get outs."
The Rangers cut it to 4-3 on Cruz's RBI single in the fifth, then tied it against reliever Juan Perez in the sixth. Leury Garcia scored from third when catcher Josh Thole made an errant throw to second on Craig Gentry 's stolen base.
Gentry went to third on the play but was called out for leaving the bag too soon on shallow pop fly by Andrus, mistakenly thinking the ball had dropped in for a hit.
Beltre's two-out homer gave the Rangers the lead in the seventh, and Murphy added some insurance by going deep on Dustin McGowan 's first pitch of the eighth, his eighth homer of the season.
"That was big right there. He gave us some more cushion," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Rangers rookie right-hander Justin Grimm allowed four runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings. He walked three and struck out six.
"I had a really good fastball today," Grimm said. "Both sides of the plate, my command was great with it. They weren't doing anything with it at all."
NOTES: Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said SS Jose Reyes (left ankle) should be ready to begin a minor league rehab assignment within the next 10 days. ... The Blue Jays recalled RHP Thad Weber from Triple-A Buffalo to replace RHP Brad Lincoln , who was optioned to Triple-A after pitching four innings Saturday. Weber was optioned back to Buffalo after the game, clearing a spot for LHP Darren Oliver (shoulder) to come off the disabled list before Monday's game against the Chicago White Sox. ... Gibbons will skip Monday's game to attend his son's high school graduation. Bench coach DeMarlo Hale will take over. ... The Rangers put RHP Michael Kirkman on the 15-day DL after a recurrence of lymphoma around his right triceps. The team says a complete recovery is expected. ... The Rangers also put RHP Alexi Ogando (shoulder) on the 15-day DL, recalled RHP Josh Lindblom from Triple-A Round Rock and selected the contract of right-hander Kyle McLellan from Triple-A. ... Texas 2B Ian Kinsler (bruised ribs) has started hitting off a tee but has no timetable for a return. Kinsler has not played since May 17.