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HOUSTON — Task number one for the Blue Jays on Friday night at Minute Maid Park was to get a hit off of the often invincible Astros ace, Justin Verlander.

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Task number two? Get him out of the ball game while you’re still in it.

The Jays did just that to the sure-fire Hall of Famer, who did not hit them the most recent time I have faced the Jays back in 2019.

And what resulted was a highly entertaining first round to the three-game weekend series here. And possibly the most impressive of their nine wins thus far in a strong start to a season with such high expectations.

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A clutch two-out double from third baseman Matt Chapman in the top of the ninth scored Vlad Guerrero Jr. all the way from first for the winning run in a 4-3 Jays victory.

Sure it’s only Game 14, but perhaps not too early for a character, come-from-behind momentum builder against a strong team, one of the best starters in baseball and doing it without leadoff hitter and former Astro, George Springer.

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“This is a team that’s been in the World Series three of the last five years,” said Jays starter Ross Stripling, who carried his end of the bargain. “We’re here in their place, a place that gets as loud as anywhere in the big leagues. This is a good character win.”

It was the second consecutive contest that newcomer Chapman drove in the decisive score after doing the same against the Red Sox on Thursday at Fenway Park.

Invincible Jordan Romano came in to pick up his MLB-leading eighth save and second in as many days, though this one didn’t come easily.

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The Markham, Ont. native had allowed the Astros to get runners on the corners with one out before striking out Jason Castro and JJ Matijevic to end it. Romano reacted with an emphatic fist pump to finish off one of the most impressive road wins of the young Jays season.

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Manager Charlie Montoyo is running out of superlatives for Romano, so he arrived at his post-game scrum singing O Canada as an ode to the pride of Markham, Ont., and the beast of the bullpen.

“First and third and he doesn’t panic,” Montoyo said of Romano. “I’ve got to keep talking about him. It’s not easy for him to do what he’s doing through 98 and 97 (miles per hour.)”

With a heavy workload – he’s earned a save in all but one of the Jays nine wins – the Jays are carefully monitoring Romano. But when his fastball was touching 98 miles per hour on Friday, they knew everything was fine.

“We were debating before the game but we talked to our coaches before the game and they said he’s fine,” Montoyo said. “We have to pay attention because he’s pitched a lot, but great job from him.”

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With the triumph, the Jays increased their season-longest winning streak to three games and improved to 9-5, good enough to remain alone atop the AL East.

And with Alek Manoah on the mound for a Saturday matinee, it was an ideal start to the three-game weekend series here at Minute Maid Park.

In some regards, Friday’s reply shaped up as a pitching mismatch. Verlander, after all, was coming off an eight-inning, three-hit shutout and appears to be back as strong as ever after missing two years following Tommy John surgery.

Swing man Stripling had been strong enough in his previous outing but essentially the hope was the veteran right hander could keep his team in the game.

The Jays got essentially what they had hoped for from the right-hander as Stripling allowed three runs on five hits over four innings of work. That well-earned versatility from the 32-year-old is already paying off for the Jays.

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The big damage came in a three-run third when the Astros chipped away at him with four hits and a walk. But most of that was soft contact and Stripling remained focused.

“I think that’s as good as stuff as I’ve ever maybe had,” Stripling said. “That’s a good lineup over there.”

Meanwhile, the Jays were able to get Verlander enough to get back in it. A leadoff single by speedy Ramiel Tapia got it started in the fourth as he moved around to score.

And with back-to-back fifth inning home runs from Santiago Espinal and Bradley Zimmer – the first allowed by Verlander this season – suddenly the Jays had tied it at 3-3, setting the stage for the Guerrero-Chapman tandem of triumph in the ninth.

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