Sharp Stroman gets plenty of help from his friends

Pillar, Donaldson dazzle in the field after Toronto opens game with back-to-back HRs

Sharp Stroman gets plenty of help from his friends

MINNEAPOLIS -- Marcus Stroman was on top of his game Sunday afternoon against the Twins. Even when he wasn't, he had plenty of support behind him.

Stroman allowed one run on three hits and a pair of walks in 7 2/3 superb innings, leading the Blue Jays to a 3-1 win at Target Field.

The young right-hander followed in the steps of lefty J.A. Happ, who allowed just one hit through seven excellent innings on Saturday. Stroman, too, gave up just one hit through seven, using his two-seam fastball effectively to work ahead in counts and keep the Twins off-balance.

"It felt great today," Stroman said. "It felt like I was commanding it all day and I was able to get that depth from it early on and just really used it and tried to locate it as best I could all game."

It helped that Stroman also had three runs of support before throwing his first pitch.

The Blue Jays got back-to-back home runs to lead off the game by Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson, as well as an RBI double by Troy Tulowitzki later in the inning, to give Stroman an early boost.

Blue Jays rip two early homers

"That was awesome," Stroman said. "That definitely gives me a little more confidence going out there and puts a little bit more emotion in me to get back into the dugout."

Donaldson assisted with his glove in the bottom of the first, ranging toward the third-base bag to barehand a grounder by Brian Dozier and fire to first for the out.

Donaldson's barehanded play

"That's probably a hit 99 out of 100 times, and he made the play," Stroman said.

Donaldson also had a diving stop of a shot by Joe Mauer toward the hole at short, robbing the Twins first baseman of a base hit to end the third inning.

Donaldson's nice stop

"The more they do that for me, the more it kind of picks me up and makes me want to get back in the dugout and get the guys up again," Stroman said. "I get those lifts when anybody on our team makes those plays. We have unbelievable defense, and guys are always bailing me out."

Cut4: Hitting ball near Pillar a bad idea

The defensive crown jewel of the day came to close out the fifth inning. With two outs and a runner on, Dozier smoked a fastball toward the left-center-field gap that appeared destined to make it a one-run game.

Statcast: Pillar's diving catch

Center fielder Kevin Pillar had other ideas, ranging to his right, diving and picking the ball out of the air before crashing to the ground.

"That's probably gonna plate one, and there's no telling what happens from there," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "But I've said many times, we've seen him do it over and over and over. It's really not a big deal for us anymore to watch it. He's a special outfielder."

Stroman said it provided him with the lift he needed to get through the middle innings. He retired the next six men in order to get through seven innings with just one hit allowed.

"He's always saving our [rear ends]. He's helping all of us out there each and every day, and we're just thankful to have him out there," Stroman said of Pillar. "Any ball that's remotely close to him, he usually comes down with, so that's pretty reassuring, having someone like that out there behind you."

Dan Myers is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Blue Jays on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.