SEATTLE -- Josh Johnson pitched like he wanted to keep his job on Tuesday night.
Amid a disappointing season, Johnson threw five scoreless innings to help the Blue Jays beat the Mariners, 7-2, in front of 28,198 at Safeco Field.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said recently that Johnson, who carried a 1-8 record with a 6.60 ERA into Tuesday's matchup, would be evaluated start by start. The right-hander responded against the Mariners by working himself out of trouble through most of his five innings.
Johnson gave up five hits and two walks, and was forced to work with two runners aboard in three of his five frames, but he used a pair double plays to escape unscathed. It was the first time since June 17 that Johnson had not allowed a run, and it was his first win since June 23.
"He was definitely much better," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "I liked the way he worked back there with [catcher Josh] Thole. He used more curveballs than sliders and he was thinking much better. He gave up some hits and he had some baserunners on, but he worked out of some jams. In the past, in that last three, four, five starts, guys are getting on and they're opening the game up. It was a big game for him."
"Just a small little adjustment that we made and it made the world of difference," Johnson said. "Just being able to get on top of the baseball for my slider, curveball, fastball, used a lot of sinkers and Thole was great back there."
Jose Reyes gave Johnson the lead before he stepped onto the mound when he hit the first pitch of the game over the wall in right-center for his eighth home run of the year. It was the 18th time Reyes has led off a game with a home run, and just the second time Mariners starter Felix Hernandez has allowed one.
The Mariners' infield helped the Blue Jays add to their lead with a bad defensive inning in the fourth. Both Kyle Seager and Brad Miller committed fielding gaffes to put runners on the corners with one out. After a strikeout and a Brett Lawrie steal of second base, Emilio Bonifacio hit a soft double into the right-center-field gap to score two. Reyes followed with an RBI single to give the Blue Jays a 4-0 lead.
The Blue Jays added another two runs in the fifth on RBI singles from Colby Rasmus and Lawrie. The inning would be the last Hernandez would work, as he was bounced from the game after tossing 101 pitches. The Mariners' ace allowed six runs (three earned) on nine hits, the most he's given up in either category since June 20.
"It was a struggle," said Hernandez, who took his first loss in 13 games. "I fell behind, right from the beginning with the leadoff home run. It was a tough game."
Four of Toronto's runs were unearned -- including three that were credited to Hernandez -- as the Mariners committed four errors.
Rasmus turned in the play of the night when he made a leaping catch at the wall in straightaway center in the sixth to rob Kendrys Morales of what appeared to be a home run. Rasmus almost made another fine play in the seventh, but Miller's line drive glanced off his glove in deep center for a triple, allowing two runs to score.
The Blue Jays will go for their first series sweep on Wednesday since taking three straight from the Orioles on June 21-23.
"We're playing pretty good right now," Gibbons said. "We had the comeback win in Anaheim and then beat two of the better ones in baseball, [Hisashi] Iwakuma last night and [Hernandez] tonight. It's been an up-and-down season. We go out there every day and try to play a good game. When we do, we usually get pretty good results."
Josh Liebeskind is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.