Donaldson hitless in Toronto return as Jays top Braves 3-1
TORONTO (AP) — When Josh Donaldson strode to the plate with the bases loaded and two out in the seventh inning, Atlanta Braves teammate Freddie Freeman figured he was about to witness something special.
“I thought he was going to hit a grand slam,” Freeman said. “It was the perfect setting.”
Instead, Donaldson popped up a curveball, a fruitless end to his final at-bat in a hitless return to Toronto.
Justin Smoak homered and drove in two runs, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had two hits and an RBI and the Blue Jays beat the Braves 3-1 on Tuesday night.
Smoak hit an RBI single off Mike Soroka in a two-run first, and added his 20th homer in the seventh against Sean Newcomb.
The NL East-leading Braves lost their second straight following an eight-game winning streak that matched a season high. They managed just four runs while playing in New York, Colorado and Toronto in a span of three days.
“We’re kind of in a collective little rut here,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s not one guy, either, it’s a whole team thing.”
Donaldson went 0 for 4, including his popup against right-hander Derek Law in the seventh.
“I was able to work a pretty good at-bat right there, I just missed a breaking ball 3-2,” Donaldson said. “I felt like that was kind of the case all night.”
The Canadian-born Soroka (10-3) allowed two runs and eight hits in six innings in his first loss in 14 road starts this season. Soroka came in 6-0 with a 1.32 ERA away from home.
“Credit to them, they hit the ones I didn’t locate,” Soroka said.
Zack Godley (4-5) pitched three innings for the win in relief of opener Wilmer Font. Ken Giles, the seventh Toronto pitcher, got three outs for his 17th save in 18 opportunities, catching Freeman looking at strike three for the final out.
Acquired from Oakland in November 2014, Donaldson won the AL MVP award in his first season in Toronto, teaming with fellow sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to help the Blue Jays win the AL East and end baseball’s longest active playoff drought. Donaldson earned All-Star and Silver Slugger honors for a second straight season in 2016 as Toronto made another losing appearance in the ALCS.
Last August, the Blue Jays traded Donaldson to Cleveland for minor league right-hander Julian Merryweather. Speaking to a crowd of reporters before the game, Donaldson said it hurt to leave Toronto while rehabbing an injury in the minors, depriving him of a chance to say goodbye.
“I didn’t want to leave on that type of sour note,” Donaldson said.
Before the first pitch, the Blue Jays paid tribute to Donaldson’s Toronto tenure with a highlight video, including his dramatic slide to score the winning run in the 2016 ALDS against Texas. Standing alone in shallow right field, where he had been warming up, Donaldson tipped his cap and turned to acknowledge the cheers from the crowd of 24,578.
“To see that, it’s tough,” Donaldson said. “It brings back memories, a lot of good times. It’s not something that you’re used to seeing as an athlete and it’s tough to prepare for. At the same time, it was nice to be a part of it.”
The fans were on their feet again when Donaldson batted with two outs and a runner at third in the first. Donaldson stepped out of the box and tipped his batting helmet to the crowd, then stepped in to face Font. After getting ahead 2-0, Donaldson flied out.
“We love Josh and Toronto loves Josh, too,” Freeman said.
Smoak, one of the few remaining Blue Jays to play alongside Donaldson in Toronto, said it was good to see his old teammate.
“Honestly, he’s one of the all-around baseball players that I feel like I’ve played with,” Smoak said.
Usually a defensive stalwart, Donaldson made a throwing error on Bo Bichette’s infield hit in the bottom of the first. Guerrero and Smoak hit RBI singles as Toronto took an early lead.
The Braves put runners at second and third with one out in the fifth, but Godley struck out Ronald Acuña Jr. and got Ozzie Albies to ground out.
Albies got Atlanta on the board with an RBI double off Law in the seventh. Freeman was intentionally walked to load the bases for Donaldson, who popped to shortstop.
Soroka, who is from Calgary, faced the Blue Jays for the first time in June 2018, allowing four runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Braves: OF Austin Riley (right knee) started at DH and went 2 for 5 on Monday in his first rehab game with Triple-A Gwinnett. ... RHP Darren O’Day (right forearm) allowed one hit and struck out one in a scoreless inning with Class A Florida. His next outing is expected to be at Triple-A.
Blue Jays: 2B Devon Travis (left knee surgery) has been ruled out for the remainder of the season. Travis was injured during spring training and did not play for Toronto in 2019.
ARMED AND DANGEROUS
Acuña had two assists in right field, throwing out Cavan Biggio and Rowdy Tellez at second base.
“I said it’ll be all over SportsCenter tomorrow,” Snitker said. “Those are just phenomenal plays. It shows you what a weapon he is in right field.”
OUT OF THEIR LEAGUE
Toronto snapped a nine-game interleague losing streak.
Braves: RHP Mike Foltynewicz (4-5, 5.68 ERA) is 2-0 with a 3.91 ERA in four starts this month.
Blue Jays: RHP Jacob Waguespack (4-1, 3.63 ERA) pitched seven shutout innings against the Dodgers in his previous outing and is unbeaten in five starts.
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