The Blue Jays went into Friday's series opener with the Reds at Great American Ball Park needing a jolt to get them back on track after having been swept by the Yankees and falling to 8-9 in June on the heels of a 21-win May.
They got that jolt in the form of the second-largest comeback victory in franchise history when Toronto erased an eight-run deficit to stun Cincinnati, 14-9.
"We hope it leads to something, maybe that gets us going because we've been kind of stale, but maybe something like that gets you going," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said after the win. "I may never see another game like that; you may never see another game like that, so just enjoy it and hope it leads to better things."
The Blue Jays will begin to find out whether that will lead to better things when they send left-hander J.A. Happ to the mound against the Reds on Saturday. Happ has had an up-and-down season thus far, with a 6-3 record despite a 4.05 ERA through 12 appearances (nine starts). He's coming off a strong outing against the Orioles in Baltimore last Sunday, in which he allowed one run on seven hits while walking none and striking out six in six innings to earn the win.
The southpaw has struggled in his career against the Reds, however. In five starts against Cincinnati, he is 1-2 with a 5.64 ERA.
The Reds are slated to send right-hander Mike Leake to oppose Happ. Leake had a strong start to the season, posting a 2.92 ERA through May, but has struggled this month to the tune of an 8.22 ERA in three June starts. In his only career start against Toronto, he allowed three runs on five hits over seven innings in a 6-3 loss on June 17, 2011.
After his most recent outing, Leake was grateful for the offense that backed him in a blowout win over the Brewers last Sunday even though he allowed four runs on nine hits over five innings.
"It was our relievers and our offense that did a great job today," he said. "I did what I could, but the offense really came out today."
Reds: Votto proud of former teammate Encarnacion
With the Blue Jays in town, first baseman Joey Votto reminisced on Friday about a former teammate whose slugging this season he has admired from afar.
"He's a teammate that I really am very fond of," Votto said of former Reds third baseman and current Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who went who went 2-for-5 with two home runs and a career-high six RBIs against his old club Friday. "You almost -- I don't want to use the word 'awe' -- but you think to yourself, 'What do I have to do in my swing to get to that point?' And that May stretch [when Encarnacion hit 16 home runs during the month] was certainly like that."
While Votto is trying to return to form after sustaining a left quad injury that kept him out of the lineup for 23 games, Encarnacion's transformation over the past few years into an offensive force to be reckoned with doesn't surprise Votto.
"Home run potential is very, very game-specific. He didn't show that [during his time in Cincinnati]," Votto said. "Whatever adjustments he made to his game certainly has changed his career, changed his life, and I'm extremely proud and happy for him."
Blue Jays: Rotation shuffle meant to get veterans some rest
Prior to Friday's series opener with the Reds, the Blue Jays shuffled their starting rotation, calling up right-hander Liam Hendriks from Triple-A Buffalo to make a spot start, bumping R.A. Dickey's start to Sunday.
The idea behind the shuffle was to ensure the 39-year-old Dickey, who is recovering from a minor groin injury, gets enough rest so he doesn't tire down the stretch. The same goes for right-hander Drew Hutchison -- who missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery -- and 35-year-old left-hander Mark Buehrle.
"[Hendriks] was coming to pitch this series regardless, but with Dickey and the groin deal the other day, it allows us to back him up and give him an extra couple of days," Gibbons said Friday. "But Hendriks was coming here anyways; it wasn't strictly to give Dickey a break."
• Votto, second baseman Brandon Phillips and left fielder Ryan Ludwick have all had success against Happ in their careers. Votto is 6-for-14 (.429) with two doubles and two RBIs against the left-hander. Phillips is 6-for-12 with a double, three home runs and six RBIs, while Ludwick is 5-for-15 (.333) with four RBIs.
• Catcher Erik Kratz is 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBIs in his career against Leake. Kratz is also the only member of the Blue Jays to homer against Aroldis Chapman. He did so as a member of the Phillies on May 19, 2013. He hit a game-tying homer in the ninth, which was followed by a walk-off homer by Freddy Galvis. Center fielder Colby Rasmus has also had success against the right-hander, going 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs. Right fielder Jose Bautista is 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.