BALTIMORE — Josh Donaldson is making a push for another AL MVP Award, and the Toronto Blue Jays may be narrowing the field in the AL East.
Donaldson hit his fourth homer in two days and Jose Bautista also went deep in support of Marco Estrada, leading the Blue Jays over the fading Baltimore Orioles 5-1 on Monday night.
Toronto maintained a two-game lead over the Red Sox for the division lead, while Baltimore fell four games back. The Orioles have lost four of five and are clinging to the second wild card.
Donaldson hit a solo homer in the fourth to tie it 1-1. The reigning AL MVP had three homers in a 9-6 win over Minnesota on Sunday.
“He’s such a good player,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “When he’s doing his thing, it makes such a big difference for this team. It really sets everything up. It really helps Eddie (Encarnacion) out behind him and those other guys to drive in runs when he’s on base. What can you say? The last few years he’s come into his own. He’s one of the top dogs out there.”
Estrada (8-6) allowed one run and four hits with four strikeouts over seven-plus innings. The Blue Jays have won three of his four starts against the Orioles this year.
“We used a lot of curveballs early on and they weren’t really swinging at it so I was able to get a few called strikes with that,” Estrada said. “I was able to locate a little better. I had a little better feel for my changeup today and just tried to throw strikes.”
J.J. Hardy provided Baltimore’s only run with his eighth homer in the third. But that’s about all Baltimore could muster against Estrada.
“We’ve had trouble with him for a while,” Hardy said. “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.”
Baltimore left-hander Wade Miley (8-11) allowed three runs and five hits while tying a season high with nine strikeouts over seven innings. He has lost three of six starts since being acquired from Seattle on July 31.
“We just got to play ball,” Miley said. “We’ve got plenty of games against Toronto. It’s in our own hands. We just got to play ball games.”
Miley retired the first 10 batters before allowing Donaldson’s 34th home run. Troy Tulowitzki gave the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead later that inning with an RBI single.
Bautista provided a two-run cushion when he led off the sixth with his 16th homer, and that was all the support Estrada needed.
“He was like his old self,” Gibbons said. “Good changeup, he was hitting his spots. He threw more breaking balls I thought tonight, and they were pretty good.”
The Blue Jays added two more runs in the ninth on an RBI single by Justin Smoak and a fielder’s choice by Devon Travis off Tommy Hunter.
Joaquin Benoit, who was acquired from Seattle on July 26, pitched a perfect ninth for Toronto. Benoit has yet to allow a run in 14 games (13 1/3 innings) for the Blue Jays.
Catcher Dioner Navarro reported to the Blue Jays on Monday, three days after the club re-acquired him from the Chicago White Sox for LHP Colton Turner. Navarro played with Toronto in 2013-14 before signing with the White Sox in December.
“I was in shock when it happened and I was happy two minutes later because I was coming to an organization where I feel really comfortable and to a group of guys that I have good relationships with,” said Navarro, who hit .210 with six home runs and 32 RBI in 85 games with Chicago.
To make room, C Josh Thole was designated for assignment.
Orioles: CF Adam Jones was out of the starting lineup for the third straight game with a left hamstring strain. … Right-hander Chris Tillman, on the 15-day DL with right shoulder bursitis, threw on flat ground without any setbacks. He will play catch again Wednesday before throwing off a mound.
Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (17-4, 3.19) had his 11-game winning streak snapped in his last start against the Angels. Happ has won both of his two previous outings against Baltimore this season.
Orioles: Ubaldo Jimenez (5-11, 6.62 ERA) is back in the rotation with the injury to Tillman. He took the loss in his past outing Thursday against the Nationals after allowing one run over six innings.