TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson and the Blue Jays soared into the All-Star break after they put the finishing touches on a series victory over the Tigers.
Donaldson hit a three-run homer, and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey tossed seven strong innings in Toronto's 6-1 victory on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre. Toronto, which has won eight of its last nine, enters the break trailing the Orioles by two games for first place in the American League East and with 50-plus wins for the first time since the 1992 World Series champions accomplished the feat.
"We've been playing well as of late, and hopefully we have a nice break, everybody comes back ready to go and we continue this momentum going forward," Donaldson said.
Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez was charged with the loss after he allowed five runs over four innings of work. He allowed eight hits, which included home run No. 23 of the season for Donaldson. The reigning AL MVP Award winner went 2-for-4 with a run scored, three RBIs and a walk in his final appearance before the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard in San Diego on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
"The three-run homer with Donaldson obviously was the big blow," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
Dickey picked up his seventh win of the season after he scattered five hits and two walks over seven innings. His lone blemish came in the fifth inning, when Mike Aviles led off with a triple and later scored on a groundout. Dickey has now surrendered three earned runs or fewer in eight of his last nine starts dating back to May 29.
"Every outing has the potential to be a maiden voyage," Dickey said. "I felt good. My velocity is good, my body is feeling great, and I feel like I'm doing the things I'm capable of doing."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Rain maker: Donaldson wrapped up a red-hot first half with a three-run blast in the bottom of the fifth, turning around a two-seam fastball down the middle of the plate to give the Blue Jays a 5-0 lead. According to Statcast™, Donaldson's 23rd home run of the season was projected to travel 395 feet, and left the bat at 108 mph. The 30-year-old has now reached base safely in 19 consecutive games.
"We've pitched well, we've got the timely hits and we've played really good defense," Donaldson said. "I feel like it's just one of those things, for the better part of a year, we've been able to complete that formula most of the time. That's why we probably have a better record than we did last year."
Aviles sets table: Aviles hadn't hit a triple since Sept. 20, 2014, but he sensed the opportunity when his gapper to right-center field carried past Kevin Pillar and Ezequiel Carrera. The three-bagger set him up to score on James McCann's ensuing groundout, putting Detroit on the scoreboard. Aviles is now 4-for-9 lifetime against Dickey.
Thole time: Known for his ability to catch Dickey's knuckleball, Josh Thole provided the Blue Jays with an offensive boost on Sunday. The 29-year-old opened the scoring in the bottom of the second with a two-out, two-run single off Sanchez. The RBIs were the second and third of the season for Thole, who recorded his first game with multiple RBIs since Aug. 7, 2013.
"Any time you can help the team offensively, it's always a relief, no matter what," said Thole, who finished with two hits and a walk. "I know what my role is, and to be able to contribute, it's my job. I take it seriously and I get frustrated when I don't."
Molleken pitches in native Canada:Dustin Molleken spent 13 years in the Minor Leagues waiting for his chance to pitch in the Majors. After making his big league debut earlier this week in Cleveland, the Saskatchewan native's second Major League appearance came in Toronto, delivering 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
"It was the best feeling ever," Molleken said.
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Donaldson became the sixth player in AL history to score at least 80 runs and hit at least 20 home runs prior to the All-Star break. He joined an impressive list of players that includes: Lou Gehrig (1934), Ted Williams ('44), Reggie Jackson ('69), Frank Thomas ('94) and Alex Rodriguez (2000). Donaldson also became the first Major League player with 80 runs scored before the break since Ian Kinsler (84) and Hanley Ramirez (80) both did it in 2008.
The Blue Jays won 51 games before the All-Star break for just the fourth time in franchise history. Toronto also enters the break a season-high 11 games over .500 (51-40).
"He left some pitches up. He's a guy who a few years ago could pitch up and get swings and misses and foul balls and pop flies. Now some of those balls are leaving the yard, so he's going to have to rely more on command and location than the raw stuff." -- Ausmus, on Sanchez
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: After a four-day All-Star break, the Tigers go back to work Friday with a 7:10 p.m. ET game against the Royals at Comerica Park, starting a six-game homestand. Justin Verlander will get the start.
Blue Jays: The Blue Jays will start their second half of the season against the A's at O.co Coliseum on Friday, with Marcus Stroman getting the ball for Toronto. Stroman has been strong in his last two outings, tossing 14 2/3 innings while allowing just three earned runs. The 25-year-old will be opposed by veteran lefty Rich Hill, with first pitch set for 10:05 p.m. ET.