One slugger goes down, another steps in. There is seemingly no limit to the depth of the Toronto Blue Jays’ lineup – or the damage it can inflict.
Michael Saunders set career highs with three homers and eight RBIs, and the Blue Jays blew past the Baltimore Orioles 13-3 on Friday night for their fourth straight victory.
Hours after Toronto put outfielder Jose Bautista on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left big toe, Saunders carried an offense that has been bludgeoning the baseball over the past week.
Saunders connected with two on against Mike Wright (3-4) in the first inning, added another three-run drive off Wright in the fourth and went deep against Ubaldo Jimenez with a man on in the sixth.
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“I think my hitting is all about getting a good pitch to hit and putting a good swing on it,” Saunders said. “I thought that’s what I did tonight.”
Batting in the eighth inning against T.J. McFarland and with the chance to tie the major-league record of four homers in a game, Saunders bounced into a bases-loaded double play.
“He did a good job throwing sinkers under my hands,” he said.
That did little to ruin Saunders’ finest game in the big leagues since he debuted with Seattle in 2009. He raised his home run total for the season to 15, second-most in his career behind the 19 he hit for the Mariners in 2012.
“Michael’s in an excellent groove,” manager John Gibbons said. “He’s had a great year for us, showing good power. He’s using the whole field too. He’s not just hitting home runs pull-side. He’s driving some balls out there the other way, Great effort by him.”
Both of Saunders’ home runs off Wright were opposite-field pokes to left. In eight games against Baltimore this season, Saunders is 18 for 33 with five home runs and 12 RBIs.
“He’s doing a lot of good things for them,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s handling left-handed pitching, too. He gives them some real protection for those guys.”
Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak also homered for the surging Blue Jays, who have won seven of eight to move within a game of first-place Baltimore in the American League East.
The Blue Jays have outscored the opposition 65-32 in their last seven games.
“We’re built to hit, just like them,” Gibbons said. “Pitching wins it, but you’ve got to slug it out in this division. We play in those small ballparks, and if you can’t score you’re not going to win. That’s just a fact. But we’ve been on a nice little roll.”
Saunders led the charge in this one. His first homer gave Toronto the lead for good, and his second of the night was the key blow in a seven-run fourth inning that made it 11-2.