Blue Jays bolster lead on O's with win in opener

Blue Jays bolster lead on O's with win in opener

BALTIMORE -- Josh Donaldson homered -- his fourth in two days -- and Jose Bautista joined in, backing a fantastic start from Marco Estrada to give the red-hot Blue Jays a 5-1 win during Monday's series opener at Camden Yards.

The win puts the first-place Blue Jays a season-high 19 games over .500 and is their fourth straight victory. The Orioles, who have lost four of their last five games, are still in line for the second American League Wild Card spot -- holding a one-game lead over Detroit -- but fell to four games back in the AL East race. Toronto leads Boston by two games in the division.

"We always have battles with these guys," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of the Orioles, against whom they are 8-6 this season. "Very even teams and they are so good here at home. Any time you get that first game of the series you always feel that much better."

Donaldson, fresh off Sunday's three-homer game, hit a solo shot off O's starter Wade Miley as part of a two-run fourth inning.

"He's having that kind of year, man," Gibbons said of Donaldson. "He's such a good player. When he's doing his thing it makes a big difference for this team."

Bautista went deep to open the sixth, giving Estrada a little more cushion. The righty held Baltimore to one run -- J.J. Hardy's homer -- over seven-plus innings and has posted three consecutive quality starts against the O's.

Miley, a non-waiver Trade Deadline acquisition, turned in his best start as an Oriole. The lefty went seven innings and held Toronto to three runs on five hits with nine strikeouts.

"Wade was good," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Mixed in a lot of different looks and gave us a good chance. A good seventh inning to get one more inning out of him. Wanted to get him through [Justin] Smoak there and he let us finish the [seventh] inning. He was good. He gave us a real good chance to win the game. We just didn't do much against Estrada."

Toronto added a pair of runs off new Orioles reliever Tommy Hunter in the ninth.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Donaldson stays hot: Donaldson drove an 0-1 fastball over the fence in right-center field in the fourth inning to tie the game at 1. His 34th home run of the season left the bat at 104 mph and traveled an estimated 405 feet, per Statcast™. Donaldson, who homered three times in a game for the first time in his career on Sunday, nearly homered in the first inning Monday, too, but Nolan Reimold made a great catch in deep center field.

Statcast: Reimold robs Donaldson

During an eight-game hitting streak, Donaldson has six homers and 12 RBIs as he makes a bid to become a back-to-back AL MVP Award winner. More >

"He's one of the top dogs out there," Gibbons said.

Donaldson's solo home run

Wiley Miley: The lefty gave Baltimore exactly what it needed: a quality start. Miley struck out five of the first eight batters and didn't allow a runner to reach base until Donaldson's one-out homer in the fourth. More >

"I think the umpire had a good strike zone. Maybe a little more pitcher friendly. But he was consistent on both sides," Miley said. "He was great. Obviously it's a great lineup over there. You don't really get a lot of breaks, just got to make some pitches."

Miley's nine strikeouts

Estrada bounces back: Before Monday's game, Gibbons said Estrada was due for a good outing. Coming off a three-start span in which he was 0-2 with an 8.36 ERA, Estrada delivered. His lone blemish came against Hardy on a 2-2 changeup to lead off the third inning. He retired 11 of 12 around that home run and allowed just four hits overall. More >

"I just had a better feel for pitches," Estrada said. "In the last two outings, I had no feel for a changeup. I kept bouncing all of them. I couldn't really locate my fastball, either. Today I was able to throw every pitch around the plate."

Estrada's solid start

Where are the bats: Baltimore's lineup was held to four hits, one of which was Hardy's homer, in the loss. Baltimore did have some good at-bats, including several line drives, but the offense wasn't able to find any holes.

"I don't think it's just tonight. We've had trouble with him for a while," Hardy said of Estrada. "He locates his pitches, kind of right on the top. His fastball is sneaky. He can elevate it. He can pitch down with it, and his changeup is a really tough pitch."

QUOTABLE
"I know everyone in this clubhouse knew it wasn't going to be easy, but we're not going to give up. We're going to go out there every single night trying to win, and that's what we've got to do." -- Hardy, on the Orioles being a season-high four games out of first place

WHAT'S NEXT
Blue Jays: J.A. Happ (17-4, 3.19 ERA) will try to become the second pitcher in the Majors to reach 18 wins when he takes the mound in the second game of the series on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. The lefty has already beaten the Orioles twice this season, allowing just one run on three hits in his most recent start against Baltimore on July 30.

Orioles: Ubaldo Jimenez (5-11, 6.62 ERA) will get the ball for Tuesday's matchup against Toronto. Inserted back into the rotation due to Chris Tillman's injury, Jimenez pitched well against the Nationals his last time out. He held Washington to one run on five hits over six innings but took the loss in his first start in nearly a month.

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Ryan Baillargeon is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore and covered the Blue Jays on Monday.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.