Josh Donaldson continued his astounding form against the Twins on Saturday night at Target Park, clubbing a pair of homers in support of Marco Estrada to lift the Blue Jays to a dominant 7-2 victory. After losing back-to-back games to Toronto, Minnesota now stands just one game ahead of the Angels for the last American League Wild Card spot, meaning there will be a lot riding on tomorrow’s series closer.
Estrada Efficient Over Eight
Marco Estrada pitched a gem of a game against a hard-hitting Twins lineup, allowing just two runs on three hits over a season-high eight innings, which was enough to earn him his ninth win of the year thanks to some big hits from his bustling offence, which included two bookend home runs from Donaldson.
“Obviously, I want to end on a good note, everyone does,” said the right-handed starter, who improved to 9-8 and is set to be a free agent in the offseason. “If I can finish strong and open up some eyes, maybe and hopefully, I’ll get the chance to come back here.”
Clearly one of his best outings of the season, this start—one of his last of the season—was the perfect exclamation mark on what has been a surprising turnaround for the right-hander, who admitted to being in a self-induced slump amidst all the talks of a possible trade, but once those were temporarily out of the equation, he has looked more and more like his old self.
“Vintage Estrada, really,” Blue Jays manager Gibbons said. “He pitched a heck of a game against a really tough lineup to pitch against.”
Dialled in right from the start, Estrada retired the first 12 batters he faced on just 40 pitches, and the only two hits he surrendered were leadoff solo homers in the fifth and eighth innings that the Twins couldn’t seem to build on.
Donaldson Leads Toronto Charge With First-Inning Homer, Four-Hit Night
Things didn’t take long to fall into place for Josh Donaldson at the plate, who belted a first-pitch 438-foot solo homer into the upper decks in the top of the first to open the scoring in Minnesota.
After the first home run, starter Adalberto Mejía retired eight in a row until Donaldson returned and singled to lead off the fourth. Beginning to see patterns in Mejía’s pitches, All-Star Justin Smoak would hit an RBI double to bring home Donaldson before a pair of ground ball singles from José Bautista and Kendrys Morales made it 3-0 for the visiting team.
Blue Jays Add Three in the Eighth
After Minnesota managed to get one run back off a solo shot from the consistently dangerous Eddie Rosario, the Jays would add a trio of insurance runs in the top of the eighth, thanks to some unusual miscues from the Twins infield.
After loading the bases with no outs, Bautista hit a pop-up that would have normally been an easy play for second baseman Brian Dozier, but since he shifted to the left side of second, the pop-up dropped, allowing two runs to score.
Right behind him, Morales would hit a ground ball to the left side, which would normally be a routine 6-4-3 double play ball for the shortstop, but again, the shift was on, and the designated hitter would earn another RBI single to extend Toronto’s lead to 6-1.
Donaldson Doubles His Pleasure, Dermody Closes Things Out in Style
An inning later, after the Twins managed to get another run back with a solo shot to right from Eduardo Escobar, Donaldson managed to reestablish the five-run lead, jumping all over a 1-0 changeup from left-hander Gabriel Moya to belt yet another home run—his second of the night, 19th since the All-Star Break, and his 28th of the season.
Donaldson’s bookend home runs overshadowed a very impressive night at the plate for the third baseman, who went 4-for-5 with a pair of singles and improved to 8-for-13 in the series.
“I’m just constantly working, being able to make up a couple of adjustments here and there,” he said of his mightily impressive form of late. “I got a couple of good pitches to hit and was able to take advantage of it.”
Since it was a non-save situation, it was left-hander Matt Dermody who would come out to work a fantastic ninth inning, retiring the last three batters he faved after a leadoff double to clinch the win for Toronto. But perhaps more amusingly, Dermody forgot what to do when the last out was recorded, and ended up walking to the dugout before Marcus Stroman turned him around, reminding him he forgot to celebrate with catcher Russell Martin and the rest of his team before coming off the field, giving everyone on the team a good laugh to end a great night of baseball.