TORONTO -- There has been a lot of concern this year for the Blue Jays about whether Drew Hutchison will continue to wear down as the season progresses. On Wednesday night, Hutchison tried to eliminate some of that doubt the only way he knows how.
The right-hander made quick work of a powerful Baltimore lineup and enjoyed one of the best starts of his career in a 5-1 victory at Rogers Centre. He was dominant against a team that has manhandled more than its fair share of pitchers.
Hutchison came within one out of a complete-game one-hitter while Jose Bautista homered and drove in three runs as the Blue Jays snapped a four-game losing streak.
"Perfect timing, we were struggling a little bit," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, whose team moved within four games of Baltimore for first place in the American League East. "It's a good ballclub, we needed that. He was good. He has pitched good ballgames for us this year, but perfect timing for us tonight.
"He's still a young kid, he's not physically where he's going to be. He's coming off the Tommy John. ... I know during the trading deadline, he's a guy some teams wanted, but I think he is a part of the bright future here."
Hutchison has been insisting for the past several weeks that he isn't tired. The results seemed to indicate otherwise as he entered play on Wednesday night having allowed at least four runs in three of his past four outings. On regular rest he had a 4.96 ERA, but with at least one extra day it was 4.37.
The numbers prompted a lot of questions about Hutchison's stamina and durability. It's an understandable concern considering he missed almost all of last season with Tommy John surgery and had a total of 58 2/3 innings under his belt at the big league level prior to this year.
The fatigue narrative likely won't go away any time soon, but Hutchison did eliminate it from the equation for at least one night. He made a slight adjustment to his mechanics between starts, and on Wednesday night was as effective as he has ever been.
Hutchison consistently located the ball down in the zone and appeared to have a slight increase in velocity. Even more impressive was the downward action of his slider and the location of his changeup.
"I think that was more a byproduct of getting through the ball, getting through with the fastball command first and then that came off that," Hutchison said of the slider. "I thought my changeup was pretty good tonight."
The only mistake Hutchison made came in the second inning when he got ahead of Chris Davis with a pair of strikes but was unable to finish him off. The seven-pitch at-bat ended when Davis crushed a 94-mph fastball into the second deck for an opposite-field homer. Davis' 19th of the season was the 15th home run Hutchison surrendered this year.
Davis' hit was the only one Hutchison would surrender all night. Hutchison didn't even need to pitch out of the stretch as the only batter he walked came with two outs in the ninth inning. That prompted manager John Gibbons to make a move for closer Casey Janssen, and Hutchison had to settle for his longest outing since a shutout over Texas on May 16.
"We just couldn't square anything up," Davis said. "A lot of popups and grounders. Like I said, he was mixing all his pitches, throwing a lot of strikes and keeping us off balance. ... Changeup looks very deceptive. Looks just like his fastball coming out of his hands."
Toronto opened the scoring off left-hander Wei-Yin Chen in the bottom of the first inning. Nolan Reimold sparked a two-out rally with a single to left, which put a pair of runners on. Dioner Navarro and Danny Valencia followed with back-to-back singles as the Blue Jays took an early 2-0 lead.
Another two-out rally for Toronto came in the second. This time it was Bautista sending a 1-2 offering from Chen into the second deck in left field for a two-run shot. Bautista's 22nd homer of the season was his second in his past six games.
Bautista's strong night continued in the sixth with an RBI double. He had a three-hit night for the first time since July 25 and finished a triple shy of the cycle. Left fielder Melky Cabrera also had a three-hit night and has now hit safely in 17 of his past 20 games.
The story, though, was Hutchison.
"I don't think it's any surprise that he is certainly capable of doing what he did tonight on a consistent basis," Bautista said. "It's just going out there and executing like he did today. I think he had a great tempo, he kept throwing strikes, kept people off balance and obviously the results speak for themselves. It was a great game."