BALTIMORE -- The Blue Jays spent all spring talking about how their defense was going to be better. Well, it's still early, but the returns have lived up to the hype.
Toronto made a series of dazzling plays during Friday afternoon's 12-5 victory over the Orioles. Left fielder Kevin Pillar, second baseman Devon Travis and third baseman Josh Donaldson all came through in key situations to help keep the game in hand until the bats took care of the rest.
"I know as a collective group we take pride in our defense," Pillar said. "It's a great way to keep friends with pitchers on this team ... We know we're going to swing the bats, so if we can just minimize some runs, minimize some baserunners, as long as we can keep it in striking distance, we're pretty comfortable we're going to be able to come back and win some games."
There were two plays by Pillar that will receive most of the attention following the series opener. The first one happened in the fifth inning, when he cut off a ball that was headed for the gap and made a strong throw to get Adam Jones at second base.
The second one happened in the sixth and will make all of Friday's highlight reels. Baltimore's Chris Davis hit a deep fly ball to left field that was slicing into the the corner. Pillar had been shaded toward the left-center field gap and had a long way to run, but he made a leaping grab before crashing hard into the wall.
Despite the violent collision, Pillar hung onto the ball and got the out. He also came away with a nasty bump on his right knee or as he referred to it: "A second kneecap."
"It's just being prepared before the pitch," Pillar said of the catch. "Trying to read the guy's swing and start moving before he hits the ball. He's tough, he has power all ways, we were playing him to pull and the ball just hung up there long enough.
"As I was getting to the track, you kind of have to make a decision, to go for it or not. The score kind of dictates it there, you're more likely to be aggressive there. The worst-case scenario he's standing on second base and we're still up eight runs. Just go and get it."