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Astros bring red-hot offense to Toronto

TORONTO -- The Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays are each riding winning streaks, but the similarity ends there.

The Astros completed a two-game sweep of the Braves with a 10-4 victory Wednesday night at Atlanta, giving them four wins in a row and improving their major-league-best record to 58-27.

The Blue Jays (39-45) defeated the New York Yankees 7-6 Wednesday afternoon for their second consecutive win. It is the first time they have won two games in a row since June 18-19.

The teams conclude their pre-All-Star break schedules with a four-game series that begins Thursday night at Rogers Centre. Astros right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (7-1, 2.69 ERA) will oppose Blue Jays left-hander Francisco Liriano (4-4, 5.66 ERA) in the series opener.

The Astros have won 20 of their past 23 road games. They piled up 26 runs and 35 hits in the two games at Atlanta.

"We swung the bats extraordinarily well," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "There's always ways to get better, but when we get going on all cylinders, it's fun to watch."

The Blue Jays blew a 5-0 lead against the Yankees on Wednesday and fell behind 6-5 before Russell Martin tied it with a seventh-inning homer. Martin also got the RBI on the winning run when Dellin Betances walked him with the bases loaded in the eighth.

"It definitely was a big series win right there," Martin said. "Had to win that grudge match to have a good flight and feel good about ourselves going into a tough series against Houston. It feels like we're on the right track, we're starting to click a little bit, hopefully we can keep that going.

"Better at-bats throughout the lineup. It's contagious. You just get one or two guys to get hot and it trickles down the line. Kevin (Pillar) with a nice opposite-field homer kind of helped us out, but those guys are tough. They battled back, they made it tough on us. Luckily we were able to put a tough inning on Betances, and he walked in the winning run, so we'll take that."

The Astros are returning to American League action after playing the two interleague games in Atlanta, but may keep a lineup change that was created for the interleague contests that had Jose Altuve batting second and Josh Reddick third.

Hinch made the lineup change for National League rules so that Altuve could protect leadoff hitter George Springer, who was batting behind the pitcher except for his first plate appearance of the game.

Hinch is considering slotting Altuve and Reddick second and third at times in American League parks as well. But not Thursday. Reddick, who sits against many left-handed starters, is not expected to start Thursday against Liriano.

"I like the look of our lineup really both ways," Hinch said. "I do like breaking up the right-handed hitters, whether I break up George and Jose or Jose and Carlos (Correa), I'm somewhat torn on which way is better. It probably depends on matchups or how guys are swinging.

"It looks like Jose is comfortable at both places. Josh is comfortable at both places. George is going to stay at the top. Carlos is going to stay in the four-hole. "

Correa, the Astros' All-Star shortstop, did not play Wednesday as a precaution because of a jammed left thumb sustained on a head-first slide Tuesday.

Liriano is 1-1 with a 4.61 ERA in two career starts against the Astros. He has just one win in his past five starts, and he is coming off a defeat at Boston on Saturday. The Red Sox touched him for five runs on seven hits in six innings.

McCullers, who was selected for the All-Star Game for the first time in his career, is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in one career start against Toronto. In two starts since coming off the disabled list after recovering from a back injury, he has allowed 10 hits and four runs in 10 1/3 innings.

Over his past 10 starts, McCullers is 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA.

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