Donaldson homers twice as Blue Jays defeat Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson has feasted on high fastballs this season. He’s also feasted on Minnesota Twins’ pitching.
Donaldson did both on Saturday, and it resulted in a 7-2 win for Toronto over the Twins. Donaldson homered twice and Jose Bautista broke out of a slump for a three-hit night as the Blue Jays won their second straight game at Target Field.
Donaldson hit homers in the first and ninth innings to bookend his four-hit night. It was the 14th multi-homer game of his career and the fourth time he’s done so this season.
It didn’t take long for Donaldson to put the Blue Jays on the board. He pounced on a fastball up in the zone from Twins starter Adalberto Mejia to put Toronto up 1-0 in the first inning.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of fastballs up in the zone pretty much all season long,” Donaldson said. “There’s times when I‘m swinging and missing at it, and there’s times when I‘m connecting with it. The times that I connect with it, good things normally happen for me.”
Bautista, who came into Saturday’s game in the midst of an 0-for-17 skid, went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI in Toronto’s victory. He continues to thrive at the Twins’ ballpark, improving his lifetime batting average at Target Field to .330 (33-for-100).
The Twins entered Saturday’s contest two games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels for the second wild-card spot in the American League. With the loss, Minnesota dropped to five games behind the Yankees for the top wild-card position and was eliminated from the AL Central race. The Twins head to the Bronx for a three-game series against New York after Sunday’s finale against Toronto.
Toronto right-hander Marco Estrada (9-8) was sharp as he beat the Twins for the second time this season. Estrada surrendered just three hits over eight innings, although two were solo homers by Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar.
“Vintage Estrada, really. He had everything going, found his fastball, a really good changeup, got a lot of pop-ups,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “It’s a really tough lineup to pitch to, it really is, but he did what he normally does.”
Minnesota’s bullpen was called into action early after Mejia’s day ended with nobody out in the fourth inning. Mejia fell to 4-6 on the season with the loss.
Even though he struggled Saturday, it sounds as if Mejia will get another chance in the rotation before the season is over.
“I don’t have any qualms of him going back out there,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “It was just some selection of pitches and location more than the fact he didn’t have good stuff.”
For most of the night, the Twins’ relievers helped keep the game in check. Then things fell apart for Trevor Hildenberger and Minnesota in the eighth inning.
Holding onto a 3-1 edge in the eighth, Toronto added some insurance on a hit by Bautista. His bases-loaded bloop went over the heads of Twins infielders Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier, and Dozier kicked the ball into right field. Two runs scored on the play. One batter later, Kendrys Morales beat the shift for a base hit that scored another run to put the Blue Jays up 6-1.
Donaldson’s first-inning home run drew a raucous response from the large number of Toronto fans that made the trip to Target Field for the weekend series. The Blue Jays added to their lead in the fourth inning. Justin Smoak’s double to the left-center field gap drove in Donaldson from first for a 2-0 lead. An infield single by Morales drove in Toronto’s third run and chased Mejia from the game with no outs in the fourth.
Minnesota didn’t get its first hit until the fifth inning, but that hit scored a run. Rosario hit a solo shot, his 24th homer of the season, to put the Twins on the board and cut Toronto’s lead to 3-1. It was Rosario’s third home run in the last five games.
NOTES: Twins manager Paul Molitor reiterated Saturday that 3B Miguel Sano’s recovery from a stress reaction in his left shin remains slow. “The reality is that I‘m not as encouraged today as I was when we first got home because I had heard about some of the things he had done prior to our return, and it just hasn’t been a great week,” Molitor said. Sano hasn’t played since Aug. 19. ... RHP Joe Biagini will start Sunday for Toronto, his 16th start of the season. He also pitched out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays this season, and manager John Gibbons said Biagini’s last few starts could help decide his role in 2018. ... Eddie Rosario’s home run in the fifth inning Saturday extended the Twins’ streak of consecutive games with a home run to 15. The longest such streak in team history is 16, which happened twice -- in 1979, and earlier this season.