Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki and Kevin Pillar homered Sunday afternoon as the red-hot Toronto Blue Jays battered the Baltimore Orioles 10-4.
Toronto plays its next 10 outings away from home with a crucial four-game series against the Yankees sandwiched between stops in Boston and Atlanta.
Geography doesn’t seem to matter to the Jays who went 6-2 on their last road trip.
“We’ve been playing great,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “The winning all started after Alex made those trades. That’s pretty obvious … No doubt we brought in better players, some real good players. But maybe it was a mental thing too. Guys feel better about themselves now, because we’ve added some key guys.”
Toronto had a pretty good roster before the moves, with a lot of the holdovers also stepping up, he added.
“They’re all doing something,” he said. “Something big.”
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Toronto was 50-50 when GM Alex Anthopoulos got all-star shortstop Tulowitzki and reliever LaTroy Hawkins on July 28, picking up marquee starter David Price two days later on the eve of the trade deadline.
Now the Jays are 78-58 atop the AL East standings, 1.5 games above New York. The Yankees (76-59) defeated visiting Tampa Bay 6-4.
MVP candidate Josh Donaldson drove in two runs with a double and sacrifice fly, upping his majors-leading RBI total to 114.
Down 6-0 after four innings, the Orioles tried to claw their way back. But Toronto answered with three runs in the sixth and one in the eighth to end the comeback.
Ryan Flaherty, in the fifth inning, and Nolan Reimold, off Jays closer Roberto Osuna in the ninth, homered for Baltimore.
The Jays, who outhit the Orioles 15-6, have won 12 of their last 15 and 28 of their last 35.
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Toronto, which has scored five or more runs in each of its last 13 victories, leads the majors with 189 homers and Pillar becomes the seventh Jay to reach double digits in home runs this season.
How dominant have the Jays been? They have won their last five series and are 9-1-1 in series play since July 30.
In contrast, Baltimore (65-71) has lost two straight games and 14 of its last 17.
Orioles starter Chris Tillman (9-11) gave up six runs on eight hits, exiting in the fourth after yielding Pillar’s leadoff homer.
“It’s a tough lineup,” he said. “It’s a lineup where you have to execute consistently. I’d make two or three good pitches in a row and then I’d make a mistake and they’d make me pay.”
Six Baltimore pitchers followed.
“With very few exceptions, we didn’t make many good pitches,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
Tillman, who threw 19 pitches before he got an out Sunday, is now winless in his last four starts. The six-foot-five right-hander is 0-4 with a 15.50 ERA against the Jays this season and 4-10 lifetime against Toronto.
The game was played on a steamy 29-degree day before a Rogers Centre sellout of 46,136 with the roof open and planes from the nearby lakefront air show occasionally roaring overhead.
One giant helicopter, hovering about the stadium, prompted Orioles third baseman Manny Machado to ask for time at the plate.
Despite early control issues, Jays starter Marco Estrada (12-8) did not give up a hit until Reimold beat out an infield single with one out in the fifth. Flaherty, the next hitter, homered into the second deck in right field to cut the lead to 6-2.
Even with the lack of hits, Estrada had to pitch out of trouble with a season-tying four walks (one intentional). The normally reliable right-hander opened the game with five straight balls and threw 60 pitches in the first three innings alone, only 33 for strikes.
Estrada threw 89 pitches, 54 for strikes, in five innings and struck out four while yielding two hits.
“It was one of those days where I didn’t have my stuff,” he lamented. “I wasn’t locating at all … The guys put up a bunch of runs for me today and they got the job done.”