Don’t expect the Toronto Blue Jays to change up their batting order again any time soon and don’t be surprised if Jose Bautista doesn’t file a petition to play more games at Target Field either.
Bautista led off the game with a home run, his third in as many games and 14th in 21 career games at Minnesota’s relatively new park. It looked so impressive to Josh Donaldson that the reigning American League MVP duplicated the feat, taking Twins starter Phil Hughes to straightaway center to give the Jays a quick 2-0 lead. Three batters later, Troy Tulowitzki drove in Michael Saunders with an RBI double to cap a three-run inning, a run total that was more than enough for Marcus Stroman on Sunday.
Staked to an early lead, Toronto’s ace rebounded from the worst outing of his career last week in Tampa Bay to deliver a gem, scattering three hits, two walks and one run over 7.2 innings to pick up his fifth win of the season. Roberto Osuna entered the game to get the final four outs without incident, striking out two to pick up his ninth save of the season.
The victory gave Toronto the 3-1 series win as they head to New York for the first time this season to being a three-game series with the Yankees on Tuesday.
Stationed in the leadoff spot at the start of this series, Bautista went 5-for-17 for the series, knocking three over the wall and driving in six. In addition to upping his average, his presence at the top of the order doesn’t allow the opposition’s starter a chance to get settled – they’re facing one of the most dangerous hitters in the league from the hop – and it should be something Toronto continues going forward.
What makes the decision easier is that Tulowitzki has been hitting the ball flush and contributing for the last week, while Saunders continues to rake in the middle of the order. With Bautista’s power surging and things coming together with Tulowitzki and Saunders behind Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto should continue to deploy this same lineup when they kick things off with the struggling Yankees.
One trend the Jays should look to end in the Bronx is having someone tossed from seemingly every game. After a few different players got ejected last week in Texas, Donaldson got the quick heave-ho Saturday from the home plate umpire. Sunday afternoon, manager John Gibbons was sent to the showers early by crew chief Joe West in the fifth. It was his fourth ejection of the season.
Player of the Game: Marcus Stroman
While the power was on display right out of the gate, Stroman performance was even better and served as a reminder of why he’s a perfect fit at the front of Toronto’s rotation.
The mark of a true ace is the ability to bounce back after a bad start and that’s exactly what the Duke graduate did on Sunday, rebounding from his first last of the season, Stroman needed just 98 pitches to get through 7.2 innings before turning things over to Osuna. He only allowed five baserunners and struck out three to push his record to 5-1.
Stroman has been locked in, allowing two runs or fewer in four of his last five starts, the lone exception being his horrible outing in Tampa. If he continues pitching like this, we could see Stroman pitching in the All-Star Game in July.
On Deck: When the Jays return to the field on Tuesdya, R.A. Dickey (2-5, 4.50) will look to follow in Stroman’s shoes in the opener against the Yankees, who counter with Nathan Eovaldi (4-2, 4.44).