Donaldson shows MVP form at plate, in field

Third baseman flirts with cycle, makes tremendous stop during Blue Jays' win

Donaldson shows MVP form at plate, in field

DETROIT -- The Blue Jays have only had two players in franchise history hit for a cycle. Josh Donaldson nearly became the third on Wednesday.

Donaldson went 3-for-4 with a home run, a triple and three RBIs in Toronto's 7-2 victory over the Tigers. The reigning American League MVP had the two most difficult hits out of the way by the fifth inning but ultimately fell a double shy of the feat.

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Third baseman Kelly Gruber (April 16, 1989) and infielder Jeff Frye (Aug. 17, 2001) remain the only Blue Jays players to hit for the cycle. Donaldson might have been trying not to think about it on Wednesday afternoon, but that plan didn't really work out.

"The last time at home it wasn't until [manager John Gibbons] said something to me," Donaldson said when asked if the cycle was on his mind as he referenced a game vs. Boston on May 27 when he was a triple shy.

"Today like 10 people said something to me, so it was just like, 'All right, whatever, if it happens, it happens.' But getting a hit in the big leagues is hard enough, necessarily a cycle. Yeah, you think about it, but it's not a main concern as you're going out there."

Donaldson singled in the first, hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the third and registered a triple in the fifth. He then grounded out to second in the seventh inning, and nearly had a fifth at-bat, but Jose Bautista struck out in the top of the ninth, which left Donaldson waiting in the on-deck circle.

The rare feat might not have been accomplished Wednesday afternoon, but that didn't take away from his all-around performance. He entered Wednesday with just five hits in his previous nine games while playing through a sore right thumb injury, but the production was back in the series finale.

Donaldson's contribution wasn't limited to the batter's box. He also pulled off a highlight-reel play in the third to take a single away from Miguel Cabrera. Donaldson dove to his left and fielded a high bouncer before quickly getting back onto his feet and making a strong throw to record the out.

Donaldson's stellar stop

"It's all reaction," Donaldson said. "He came by, and it was actually pretty funny. He goes, 'Your eyes weren't even open when you caught that ball.' I told him, 'You can't tell because I'm wearing sunglasses.' It was a ball that was hit pretty hard and I was able to somehow come up with it and make the play."

Donaldson's big day at the plate was just part of the story for Toronto. One day after going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and leaving 11 men on base, Toronto had its best offensive output since June 1.

The seven runs helped salvage the series as the Blue Jays avoided being swept for the first time since May 16-18 vs. the Rays. It was a much-needed win after the club was blown out, 11-0, in the series opener and lost the second game in heartbreaking fashion as the Tigers rallied from two down in the ninth, and it came on the eve of a crucial four-game set vs. Baltimore.

"It has got to help," Gibbons said. "It makes the plane ride, even though it's short, that much better."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.