The Blue Jays defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 10-5 on Monday at the Rogers Centre, but the score does not indicate the degree of difficulty for both starter Drew Hutchison (4-3) and for the Jays’ offence.

It was a grind for both, but the Jays extended their season-high win streak to seven games.

What may have been most impressive about the offence was not the seven runs placed on the board against Rays left-hander Erik Bedard but rather the seven opposite-field hits against the wily veteran, some against an infield shift designed to frustrate known pull-hitters.

The impressive list of hitters driving the ball the other way against Bedard included Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion going to right field in the first; Melky Cabrera in the third and again in the fourth; Kevin Pillar to second base in the fourth. Then, in the fifth, there were back-to-back doubles by Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie.

A Dioner Navarro single and the Nepean, Ont., pitcher was done.
“Bedard mixed up his repertoire as far as how he’s been attacking hitters,” Jays batting coach Kevin Seitzer explained. “He’s been doing well and going predominantly off-speed stuff and nibbling with the fastball. So we were prepared for a lot more curveballs and changeups and cutters.

“I don’t think he threw one cutter and he only threw a few changeups and curveballs compared to normal and just attacked with fastballs. We were prepared to either sit on soft stuff and take the fastball or battle the fastball the other way. Guys make good adjustments, I was proud of them.”

The seven Jays wins in a row is a first since an 11-game streak June 11-23 last year that had people believing in that group — but just for a while. The Jays are now 12-2 in the last 14 and have won 17 of their last 22 starts. Only twice in the 21 seasons since winning the World Series have the Jays led the AL East by more than two games — by 3.5 in 2009 on May 18 and by 3.0 in 2000, on June 30.

As for Hutchison, it’s easy to forget the fact he is the youngest pitcher on the Jays staff. Most of his 11 times out, he has pitched with poise beyond his years. Other times, he’s been less in control, like on Monday. Those outings serve to remind you how young and inexperienced he is.

“I wasn’t locating my fastball very good at all,” Hutchison said. “It was a grind and that’s really all there is to say about it. There’s times when you don’t have it and you get through six or seven. I was able to get through five and with what our offence did it was enough.”

In the first three innings against the Rays, the 23-year-old right-hander struggled to find his control on his own and with his catcher. Then when pitching coach Pete Walker paid a mound visit in the third, Hutchison slipped and forgot about Evan Longoria on first base, as he easily swiped second. The Florida native lasted just five innings before leaving with a four-run lead, in a position to pick up an easy if undeserved win.