SEATTLE (AP) — Over three days that felt more like home games, the Toronto Blue Jays got depth from its starting pitching and — of course — another handful of home runs to find themselves back on the cusp of finally reaching the break-even mark.
Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer in the first inning and finished with three RBIs, J.A. Happ rediscovered the form that made him a 20-game winner last season with six shutout innings, and the Blue Jays beat the Seattle Mariners 4-0 on Sunday.
Donaldson and the Blue Jays knocked out Seattle starter James Paxton (5-1) after just four innings, handing him his first loss of the season and sending the thousands of Toronto fans from western Canada back north of the border after their team won two of three this weekend.
Toronto is 13-6 over its past 19 games, is 31-32 for the season and within a game of .500 for the third time since the opening week.
“Not damage to the point where I was trying to come unglued on him, but damage to where I could hit a ball in the gap and if I clip it enough maybe go deep,” Donaldson said of his homer. “I was definitely going heater at that point because I know he’s got a really good heater, as he should. I know he likes to go to it. He’s blown me up with it a few times in the past.”
Donaldson went opposite-field for his eighth homer of the season on a 2-0 pitch. He finished with three hits, including an RBI single in the fourth for a 3-0 lead. Toronto has hit home runs in 33 of 38 games since the start of May.
Kendrys Morales also had an RBI single in the fourth.
“It was good to see we scored other ways than the home run,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
Happ (1-4) picked up his first win of the season in impressive fashion, skating around Seattle getting runners into scoring position but never allowed the big hit. Seattle twice had runners at third base with two outs, but Happ struck out Taylor Motter to end the second inning and got a groundout from Kyle Seager to end the third.
Happ allowed six hits but struck out eight in getting his first win since last Sept. 20. Toronto used six relievers to finish off its fourth shutout of the season, with closer Roberto Osuna getting Mitch Haniger for the final out and his 16th save.
“I felt strong out there,” said Happ, who made his third start since missing more than a month with elbow issues. “I felt like I had probably more life than I had in my first two outings in my fastball today and I still felt strong. That’s a good sign for sure.”
Seattle was shut out for the sixth time.
Paxton was trying to become the eighth starting pitcher in club history to win his first six decisions of the season, but was off from the start. He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning, but had just one clean inning before getting pulled after the fourth.
Paxton allowed eight hits and walked three. He has pitched more than 5 1/3 innings just once since April 15.
“I just didn’t feel great today,” Paxton said. “I had a hard time finding my timing, my rhythm. I just didn’t have a plan for getting myself where I needed to be.”
ON THE FARM
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez made his second rehab start with Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday. He retired the first 14 batters before giving up a walk and a double. Hernandez allowed just one hit and struck out five, throwing 64 pitches. He’s expected to make one more rehab start before rejoining the Mariners.
Seattle activated Haniger from the 10-day DL before Sunday’s game. Haniger had been out since April 26 with a strained oblique after a scorching start to the season. He was 0 for 4 in his return. OF Boog Powell was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.
Blue Jays: After an off day on Monday, the Blue Jays open a series at home with Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Marco Estrada (4-4) starts the series opener.
Mariners: Yovani Gallardo (2-6) gets the start as Seattle opens a seven-game road trip in Minnesota on Monday. Gallardo allowed five runs in seven innings in his last start, also against the Twins.