TORONTO (AP) — With a stadium full of people on their feet as he walked off the mound, Chris Rowley started to become aware of the magnitude of his achievement.
Rowley pitched 5 1/3 innings to win his major league debut, Jose Bautista scored two runs and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-2 on Saturday.
The right-hander, who began the season at Double-A, allowed one run five hits. He walked one and struck out three.
Blue jays manager John Gibbons called Rowley’s debut “awesome.”
“We’ve been looking for that,” Gibbons said.
The only run off Rowley came in the second when Josh Bell hit a leadoff triple and scored on a two-out hit by Jordy Mercer.
Mercer added a solo homer off Leonel Campos in the ninth.
Rowley left to a standing ovation from the crowd of 46,179 after giving up a one-out single and a walk in the sixth. His parents and sister were among those in the stands.
“Walking off and all those people standing, that was something really special for me,” Rowley said. “I don’t think anybody really expects to experience that in their life.”
Dominic Leone replaced Rowley and retired the next two batters.
A former first lieutenant in the United States Army, and the first graduate of the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY, to reach the majors, Rowley (1-0) missed all of the 2014 and 2015 minor league seasons while on active service, including a stint in Bulgaria.
“He kept people off balance, he moved the ball around the zone,” Pirates acting manager Tom Prince said.
An undrafted free agent, Rowley pitched nine games for Toronto’s Rookie League affiliate in 2013 before commencing his service. In January, 2016, following 30 months in the Army, he received an exception to the remainder of his service. Rowley remains on Individual Ready Reserve.
One day after star outfielder Andrew McCutchen limped off with a sore left knee, the Pirates lost another outfielder Saturday when Gregory Polanco pulled up with a sore left hamstring while chasing Josh Donaldson’s bloop single in the fifth.
“Something grabbed him and that was it,” Prince said. Polanco is day to day.
Sean Rodriguez came into the game in left field and John Jaso moved from left to right.
Bautista walked and scored on Steve Pearce’s RBI grounder in the first. After Bell replied for Pittsburgh, Donaldson restored Toronto’s lead with a bases-loaded walk in the second.
After missing the previous two games with an illness, Kendrys Morales pinch hit for Raffy Lopez after the Blue Jays loaded the bases with one out in the fifth. Morales hit an RBI grounder to short and a second run scored when second baseman Adam Frazier’s relay throw on an attempted double play got away from Bell at first.
Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams (5-5) allowed four runs, three earned, in six innings.
“I shot myself in the foot a few times,” Williams said. “I didn’t necessarily make it super easy on myself.”
Toronto scored three times against Joaquin Benoit in the seventh, with two runs scoring on Josh Harrison’s throwing error and a third on Kevin Pillar’s sacrifice fly.
Rowley is the 12th different pitcher to start for the Blue Jays this season. Toronto used a record 13 starters in 1979, 2002, and 2013.
SWINGING A NEW STICK
NHL players Shea Weber and Nathan Beaulieu took batting practice before the game, with Weber hitting a home run on one of his swings.
Pirates: McCutchen (left knee) hit and ran before the game but did not play. “I was ready to go the whole game,” he said. “If they needed me, I was ready. At the same time, I don’t need to be doing something and making it worse. You’ve got to be safe.”
Blue Jays: Toronto put C Russell Martin (strained left oblique) on the 10-day DL and selected C Mike Ohlman from Triple-A Buffalo. To make room on the 40-man roster for Ohlman and Rowley RHP Chris Smith and OF Chris Coghlan were designated for assignment. … Gibbons said RHP Aaron Sanchez (blister) could return in a relief role rather than rejoining the rotation once his finger heals.
Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (5-7, 4.53) is 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA over his past eight starts. He has never faced Toronto.
Blue Jays: After going winless in his final four July starts, LHP J.A. Happ (5-8, 3.77) is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in two August outings.
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