MIAMI -- The heart of the Blue Jays' batting order is rounding into form, and it couldn't have come at a better time for a Toronto ballclub that has been devastated by a series of pitching injuries in recent weeks.
While the Blue Jays are attempting to make do with three-fifths of their starting rotation on the disabled list, a healthy lineup is doing its best to pick up the slack.
That production continued again on Friday night, as Brett Lawrie scored a career-high four runs while Jose Bautista hit his 23rd home run of the season in a 12-5 lopsided victory over Miami at Marlins Park.
"I can't say it's because of a conscious effort on their part to make up for some uncertainties as far as our rotation and overall pitching is concerned, but they swung the bat with a lot of confidence," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.
"They feel like they're going to walk into the ballpark, whether it's at home or on the road, and put up a good offensive night. It's good to see that we're not just going up swinging at everything. We've had very good at-bats, we've worked the count and we've been able to put multiple hits together inside of a given inning."
The Blue Jays' offense had shown glimpses of breaking out at the plate before. There were a pair of nine-run games in April, while the club also scored 11 runs on May 2 and an additional 12 on June 10. But never before has the offensive production been as consistent as it has been in the past week.
Toronto has scored 46 runs over its past seven games, and with right-handers Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison on the 15-day disabled list, the sudden surge could not have come at a better time.
During a three-game series in Milwaukee, it was Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus leading the way with eight home runs combined. Bautista was the only one to go deep on Friday night in Miami, but Lawrie ensured the offense didn't become stagnant by recording three hits to go along with the four runs scored.
"Just the ability to swing the bat like he has and getting on base at a good clip," Farrell said of Lawrie. "The top four guys in our lineup -- and that's not to slight anybody else -- but the last 7-to-10 games, they have really gelled and they have really been explosive in that group. Whether or not he's a prototypical [leadoff] guy, he's getting on base and he's scoring a lot of runs. That's the most important thing."
Lawrie is now hitting .328 (22-for-67) with an on-base percentage of .400 in 16 games since moving into the leadoff spot. He also has three home runs, eight RBIs and 17 runs scored during that same time period.
The native of Langley, British Columbia, still describes himself as a middle-of-the-order-type bat, but he appears to have found a home at the top of the lineup. It's a role he's becoming more comfortable with and even relishing.
"I feel like I'm getting the number of plate appearances that I need," Lawrie said. "Obviously, you can't get four hits every game, but at the same time, I feel like I'm seeing the ball well and just trying to get on base for the guys behind me and allow them to do their job."
Toronto got on the scoreboard in the first inning after a leadoff triple by Lawrie led to a run. The Blue Jays added two more in the third before really breaking the game open in the fourth. Toronto scored three additional runs in that frame thanks in part to erratic control by Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez.
Miami walked three batters in the inning en route to the three runs. Sanchez departed with one out in the frame, having been charged with six runs on seven hits while walking four and striking out three.
The Blue Jays continued piling on the runs in the sixth. They sent nine batters to the plate as Kelly Johnson and Rajai Davis had RBI singles, and J.P. Arencibia capped the frame with a two-run double. Overall it was a night the Marlins' pitching staff would like to forget.
"Today I felt good, I had a good feeling that everything was coming good today, because I had a good bullpen and felt good warming up, but everything was behind in the count," Sanchez said. "I got the walks in a bad situation and I think that's part of that. Right now I just need to [turn] the page and keep working."
Left-hander Ricky Romero held the Marlins scoreless until the fourth inning. That's when outfielder Giancarlo Stanton crushed the first pitch he saw over the wall in left for his 16th homer of the season. Two innings later, Romero served up another shot as Omar Infante recorded a two-run homer to left for his seventh on the year.
Those were the two main mistakes for Romero on what was otherwise a relatively solid -- but not spectacular -- night on the mound. He has now surrendered at least four runs in six consecutive starts, but hasn't suffered a loss since May 13 in Minnesota.
"I've been lucky, the hitters have done their part every time I've pitched, it seems like," Romero said. "They bailed me out of some tough games where I've left the game losing, and it's just the way baseball is. The guys always say, 'You look at last year and we couldn't score runs for you at times, this year they're scoring tons of runs.'
"It's just the way the game is. You take it and you run with it. The most important thing is that we won and we opened the series up the way we wanted to."