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Astros face Blue Jays hoping to improve best record

TORONTO -- The Houston Astros are sitting in a good spot entering the All-Star break, holding the best record in major league baseball.

They improved their record to 59-28 Friday when they trounced the Toronto Blue Jays 12-2 at the Rogers Centre.

The teams have split the first two games of the four-game set, a series that means much more to the desperate Blue Jays than to the soaring Astros.

The Blue Jays dropped to 40-46 with the loss Friday and they will send out right-hander Marcus Stroman (8-5, 3.42 ERA) against Astros right-hander Mike Fiers (5-3, 3.80).

The Blue Jays would like to go into the All-Star break on a roll, even though it would be a modest one. They have won three of their past four games so the game Saturday has significance for them.

"Obviously, we're not in the spot that we'd like to be but no one's quit in this locker room," said Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who hit a solo homer Friday. "There's still a lot of fight, we're a good team, a veteran team. No panic, we'll be OK.

"The ideal way is to win these next two games but obviously Houston over there is a real good team and we have our hands full with them."

They had their hands full particularly with George Springer, who hit two home runs and had five RBI Friday in four-hit game that matched his career best.

Springer's 27 homers are the most out of the leadoff spot before the All-Star break in major league history.

"He can wow you even when you're around him every day," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "What a great tone-setter as I've said over and over again. He's a difference-maker and getting him the most at-bats is pretty awesome. He's using the middle of the field and the opposite field. No park can hold him right now."

Astros shortstop Carlos Correa also his hot. He was 2-for-5 with a home run Friday to extend his hit streak to a career-best 15 games.

Second baseman Jose Altuve was 3-for-5 Friday for his fourth straight three-hit game, a club record.

"We've all hit the ball hard the last four or five games," Springer said.

The Blue Jays hope they have an answer for the hot bats in Stroman.

He left his start Monday at Yankee Stadium with a raw spot on a finger on his right hand and there was some doubt if he would make his next scheduled start.

That did not seem to be an issue ahead of the game Saturday.

"I don't think it's going to be an issue," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.

The backup plan was to have Joe Biagini start Saturday if Stroman could not go. Biagini, who began the season in the bullpen, was moved to the rotation because of injuries to starting pitchers.

With Aaron Sanchez having returned from blister problems on his right middle finger Friday, it means Biagini will begin to be used again as a reliever.

Stroman is 2/3 with a 3.82 ERA in his past five starts.

In three career starts against the Astros he is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA.

Fiers is 4-2 with a 2.44 ERA in his past nine starts and had a four-game winning streak during that span. He will be facing the Toronto Blue Jays for the fifth time (fourth start) in his career Saturday. He is 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in his four outings against Toronto and he has 22 strikeoutHe last started against Toronto on Aug. 14 at the Rogers Centre and allowed five runs (four earned) while striking out seven in 4 2/3 innings.

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