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Starters return from DL as Astros face Blue Jays

TORONTO -- The game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Houston Astros on Friday night will feature the return from the disabled list of both starting pitchers.

Houston's Charlie Morton will make his first start since May 24, and Toronto's Aaron Sanchez will start for the first time since May 19.

Morton (5-3, 4.06 ERA) has been on the disabled list with a right lat strain. Sanchez (0-1, 3.33) has been sidelined due to a right middle finger problem that included a blister and a split fingernail.

The Blue Jays (40-45) won the opener of the four-game series that takes the teams into the All-Star break, beating the Astros 7-4 on Thursday night at the Rogers Centre.

Toronto has won three games in a row for the first time since May 29-31. The Astros (58-28) saw their four-game winning streak end Thursday.

"The last three games that we've won, we played some pretty good baseball. We'll see where it takes us," Toronto manager John Gibbons said.

The Blue Jays, who have yet to reach .500 this season, are trying to go into the All-Star break playing well to give them a push for the rest of the season.

"(Houston) is a tough team, and any time you get to win the first game of a series, it feels good," Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said after hitting a home run Thursday. "We've been playing pretty good ball lately, so I think the key is just doing that."

The Astros, who have the best record in the major leagues, were not on top of their game in the series opener, committing two errors.

"We've been playing like machines throughout the whole season," said Houston shortstop Carlos Correa, who extended his hitting streak to a career-best 14 games. "Today we showed that we are human."

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, "We didn't have a great night in a lot of aspects."

If the Blue Jays are to salvage anything from this season, the return of Sanchez, the American League ERA leader in 2016, would be important.

The blister problem has limited him to five starts this year.

"I think (he) is going to help us win a lot of games," said Francisco Liriano, who was the winning pitcher Thursday. "He's been a great pitcher for us, and I think that is a very good piece for our starting rotation."

Sanchez allowed three runs and six hits in six innings against the Orioles in a no-decision at Baltimore before going on the disabled list.

He said the blister problem has been solved. In his final rehabilitation start with Triple-A Buffalo on Sunday, he allowed four runs, five hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings, making 76 pitches while taking the loss against Syracuse.

"Everything's been good," Sanchez said after the outing. "Just (wanted) to get to my pitch count and make sure I was doing the things I needed to do."

Sanchez is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four career games (two starts) against Houston.

Morton will be making his first career start against the Blue Jays.

After allowing two runs and four hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking three in a 6-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on May 24, he went on the disabled list.

He made his third rehabilitation start and first for Double-A Corpus Christi on Sunday, when he allowed two unearned runs and one hit in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out five and walked two while throwing 74 pitches (50 strikes).

"Don't know how hard I was throwing, but movement-wise was OK," Morton said. "Didn't get a swing and miss on my curveball, but did get swing and miss on my changeup, fastball and cutter. Worked some deep counts, balls fouled off. ... felt like I made some pretty good pitches."

Houston reliever Dayan Diaz will be optioned to Triple-A Fresno to make room for Morton on Friday.

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