Don’t look now, but things seem to be coming together for the Toronto Blue Jays.
After taking two of three to close out their first visit to the Bronx, the Jays returned home, welcomed the Boston Red Sox into town and took the opening game of the series 7-5 on the strength of a strong offensive effort and solid performance from the bullpen.
The offense was powered by a monster night from reigning MVP Josh Donaldson, who went 4-for-5 with two home runs and five RBI. The “Bringer of Rain” went yard in the first and the eighth, slapping an RBI double to center in the third in between. Justin Smoak added his fourth home run in the fourth.
On the bump, Aaron Sanchez had an uneven start, striking out six over 6.2 innings, but allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks as well. Sanchez exited with a lead, only to have Boston tie things up in the eighth with a run off Joe Biagini.
But then Donaldson went deep with his two-run shot in the eighth to give the home side a lead once again and closer Roberto Osuna came in to lock up his 11th save of the season in the ninth.
With the victory, Toronto returns to .500 on the season, leveling their record at 25-25 and extending their winning streak to three. This week kicked off a crucial stretch of games for the reigning American League East champs, with home-and-run meetings with New York and Boston, and thus far, the Jays have made the most of their opportunity, taking three of four from their perennial rivals.
And for the first time all season, Toronto looks like the team that snapped its playoff drought last season. Multiple facets are coming together at the same time – strong relief and offensive outbursts, quality starts with timely hitting – and they’re starting to string together the kind of wins that can carry them up the standings.
After starting the week in the basement, this three-game winning streak has already elevated them into third place in the East and with five of the next seven against first-place Red Sox, that could change in a hurry if things keep going the same way.
Player of the Game: Josh Donaldson
Donaldson is one of the most consistent power hitters in the big leagues and when he gets hot, he’s lethal. Friday was his best performance of the season – hit first multi-homer game and a season-high five RBI – and snaps a 4-for-24 stretch since he was given a day off on May 18.
The key thing with Donaldson – and all of Toronto’s hitters when they get rolling – is that they’re capable of knocking in runs and keeping the line moving in addition to going yard. The third baseman showed that Friday night and it helped carry the Blue Jays to victory.
On Deck: Game 2 of this pivotal series is an afternoon affair with Boston sending Rick Porcello (7-2, 3.47) to the hill. The Blue Jays counter with Marcus Stroman (5-1, 3.89).