Donaldson's 2 HRs continue 2nd-half tear

Donaldson's 2 HRs continue 2nd-half tear

BOSTON -- Josh Donaldson has an American League Most Valuable Player Award on his resume, but he's arguably playing better now than he ever has before.

Donaldson has been on a tear since the All-Star break, and the production continued on Tuesday night with another two-homer performance in a 9-4 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park. The veteran slugger leads the AL with 24 home runs since the Midsummer Classic, and he has gone deep in five consecutive road games.

The latest multi-homer game was his sixth of the season and the 16th of his career. Donaldson now sits alone in second place for the most home runs hit by a Blue Jays third baseman with 104, which is just three shy of the franchise record owned by Kelly Gruber. Along the way, Donaldson's string of success has made an injury-plagued first half feel like a distant memory.

"Any hitter that has a career in the Major Leagues is going to go through a time where they're not feeling well at the plate," Donaldson said. "There were definitely some things this season that I had to overcome, that I haven't had to overcome in my career before.

"It is nice. It's nice to be able to finish strong, more importantly because of how frustrating at times it's been. We haven't been catching the breaks that we would have liked over the course of the season. It is nice to finish strong."

Donaldson's first home run came in the top of the first inning when he got a 1-0 slider from Boston ace Chris Sale and sent it over the Green Monster for a solo shot. It was Donaldson's 15th first-inning home run of the season, which surpassed Miami's Giancarlo Stanton for the most in the Majors. Donaldson is also closing in on the MLB record for most first-inning homers, which was set by Alex Rodriguez with 18 in 2001.

Prior to the latest first-inning homer, Sale had not allowed a run to the Blue Jays' lineup all season, a span of 22 innings. Donaldson got him again in the third with his second solo shot of the game. According to Statcast™, that was projected to travel 425 feet and left his bat at 105 mph. Miguel Cabrera was the last hitter to homer twice against Sale, doing so Sept. 5, 2016. Eric Hosmer (June 10, 2016) and Ryan Raburn (Sept. 7, 2015) are the only two other Major Leaguers to do it.

Donaldson finished his impressive night 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs and runs. He's batting .389 (21-for-54) with 12 runs, two doubles, eight homers and 13 RBIs over his past 14 games.

"He's played so good since he's been here," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Last year, he had a big year. Basically, the six, seven weeks he's out and he's putting up the numbers he is now. But he's an elite player; that's what they do."

As for all of those first-inning home runs? Donaldson will certainly take them, but he also can't really explain why it has been happening so much.

"I wish I had an idea of why. I don't know," Donaldson said. "I feel like guys in the first inning, maybe they come at me a little bit more than later on in the game or throughout the game. I'm not quite sure. I feel like I get some pretty good pitches to hit early on, and I've been able to execute and put some pretty good swings on them."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com 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.