Josh Donaldson's blast helps Toronto Blue Jays rout Pittsburgh Pirates

By Larry Millson, The Sports Xchange
Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson hits a home run. File photo by Darren Calabrese/UPI
Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson hits a home run. File photo by Darren Calabrese/UPI | License Photo

TORONTO -- As far as John Gibbons is concerned, the Toronto Blue Jays' 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon was just another step in the long climb to reach the .500 mark and make a possible, though improbable, late run at a postseason spot.

What he did not realize is that it also was the 700th win as the Blue Jays' manager.


"It was, huh?" he said.

Josh Donaldson keyed a five-run first inning with a two-run homer and left-hander J.A. Happ struck out eight in six innings in the rubber match of the three-game interleague series.

The Blue Jays have won their past two series, including one against the New York Yankees to open the homestand.


As far as what his team must do the rest of the dwindling schedule to contend for a playoff spot, Gibbons he said. "I mean, I don't know, you don't know, nobody knows, just go out there and run this thing out and see where we end up. ... we're playing good baseball."

Darwin Barney and Justin Smoak added solo shots for the Blue Jays and Ryan Goins had a two-run double.

Happ (6-8) allowed four hits, three walks and one run while winning his third straight start.

"Usually in most games we try to go with what works, and the offspeed was working for me today so we tried to capitalize on that," Happ said.

Pittsburgh's Chad Kuhl (5-8) allowed four hits, five walks and five runs (four earned) in six innings.

"Three pitches got in the hot zone of their hitters," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "They didn't miss the balls that were left out over the plate and (Kuhl) didn't throw enough strikes. The combination of the two put us in a hole."

The Pirates (58-60) scored once in the first inning on singles by Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen and David Freese.


The Blue Jays (56-61) scored five runs in the bottom of the first.

"I couldn't get a rhythm there in the first," Kuhl said. "You try your best to find that rhythm and it just took a little longer today. They were on it from pitch one. They were ready from the get-go."

Jose Bautista led off with a walk and Donaldson hit his 16th homer of the season. Smoak doubled, Ezequiel Carrera walked and both scored on the double by Goins.

An error by third baseman Freese on Kevin Pillar's grounder put runners at the corners. Pillar stole second and Goins stole home to increase the lead to 5-1.

Happ walked two batters with two outs in the sixth inning before striking out Jordy Mercer to end the inning.

"Happ was really good, I thought he was a little bit off early in the game but he found that groove and he was sticking it much better," Gibbons said. "He's been on a nice roll since he came back from the elbow issues."

Happ admitted there was some enjoyment to beating a team that he pitched well for in the second half of 2015.


"Yeah, a little bit," he said. "I have nothing but great memories there, I like that group but it feels good, for sure."

"I think he was able to pitch to a liberal strike zone," Hurdle said. "We were challenged at times. I'd come back up and look and think 'Man, that's hard to cover that much territory at the plate.' He was able to maintain those areas, stay in those areas. We couldn't get that ball in the gap when we needed it."

Wade LeBlanc replaced Kuhl in the bottom of the sixth and allowed Barney's third homer of the season with two outs.

Danny Barnes pitched a perfect top of the seventh.

Smoak hit his 32nd homer of the season in the bottom of the seventh.

Toronto's Leonel Campos allowed two one-out walks in the eighth before Ryan Tepera retired the final two batters of the inning on a strikeout and a popout to first.

J.P. Howell pitched a perfect ninth.

NOTES: Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen (sore left knee) returned to the lineup Sunday as a DH after missing the game Saturday. ... Pirates OF Gregory Polanco (left hamstring) was not in the lineup Sunday after leaving the game Saturday with the injury. ... Toronto RHP Dominic Leone was put on the bereavement list, and LHP Matt Dermody was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo. ... Pirates manager Clint Hurdle returned to the team after missing Friday and Saturday to attend the funeral of Don Baylor. Bench coach Tom Prince managed the first two games of the series. ... Pittsburgh RHP Ivan Nova (10-9, 3.87 ERA) will start the opener of a two-game set in Milwaukee on Tuesday against Brewers RHP Brandon Woodruff (1-1, 1.50 ERA). ... Toronto RHP Nick Tepesch (0-2, 9.00) will start against Tampa Bay RHP Jake Odorizzi (6-5, 4.38 ERA) in the opener or a four-game series in Toronto.


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