Sports Baseball

LONGLEY

Morales drives in 7 as Blue Jays beat Orioles

By Rob Longley, Toronto Sun

Kendrys Morales #8 of the Toronto Blue Jays swings at a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 31, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Kendrys Morales #8 of the Toronto Blue Jays swings at a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 31, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

BALTIMORE — When the Blue Jays signed Kendrys Morales in the off-season, the mission was to have a slugger who could take advantage of the hitter-friendly ballparks in the American League East.

That, and at least on an occasional basis, forget about the departure of Edwin Encarnacion.

For one night anyway, the big Cuban did just that and more, seizing the opportunity offered by the friendly dimensions of Camden Yards.

In fact, in the Jays’ 11-8 win over the Orioles, Morales had a career night, belting three home runs and a total of seven RBIs to help his team snap a four-game losing streak.

“It’s difficult to do, so you have to feel good about it,” Morales said of the second hat trick homer game of his career. “Plus we got the win on top of it, so it feels great.”

The Jays certainly hoped that Morales would be able to take advantage of parks such as Camden Yards, where the Orioles hit two home runs as well on Thursday to give them an MLB-record 57 for the month of August. But as Jays manager John Gibbons pointed out, Morales’ cracks of 417, 430 and 396 feet would have gone out in most venues that they play major league baseball.

“I don’t change my approach because we are playing here or at another stadium,” Morales said. “Hitting is really hard to do. Any stadium I go to I just try to do the best I can.

“It’s going my way a little big now. My timing is a little better.”

The timing for a big win over a divisional rival was good as well, considering the Orioles have owned the Jays this season with a 9-4 record.

The win doused some of that, plus ended a seven-game O’s winning streak, a notable achievement given the Jays are left to essentially play the role of spoiler rather than playoff contender in the inconsequential final month and change of the 2017 season.

“It was the Mo Show,” Gibbons said of Morales, who had his third multi-homer game as a Jay. “Obviously, we needed it on a night like tonight, falling behind. You never feel good in this ball park.”

With an RBI single in the fifth inning to complement the homers, Morales had 13 total bases and a career-high seven RBIs on the night, waking up a Jays offence that had scored one or fewer runs in four of its seven previous games.

It was always going to be a difficult assignment for Morales replacing the popular Encarnacion. And it hasn’t helped that he has struggled at times this season, particularly when chasing curveballs.

But on Thursday, Morales flexed the power the Jays saw in him when he was signed to a three-year, $33-million contract. He now has 25 homers on the season, the third most in his career.

“It was great to see,” Gibbons said. “He’s starting to heat up a little bit and I see that too.”

GAME ON

The Morales outburst helped overcome a so-so effort by starter Marco Estrada, who allowed 10 hits and a pair of home runs … In three previous games against the Jays this season, the Orioles had scored three runs on Estrada — total. They had that many off the Jays starter in two innings on Thursday. Estrada left after five innings giving up 10 hits and six runs, all earned, but got the win to improve his record to 7-8 … Closer Roberto Osuna came on with two out in the eighth and then had a 1-2-3 ninth for his 35th of the season. In so doing, he became the first pitcher in Jays history with back-to-back 35-save seasons … The Orioles didn’t waste any time getting going on Thursday with noted Jays hater/killer Adam Jones blasting a two-run homer in the bottom of the first to open the scoring … Morales got the Jays on the board with his first round-tripper in the third. He followed with another two-run blast in the sixth and then launched a solo shot in the eighth that kept on carrying.

HELP ON ITS WAY

The Jays won’t waste any time taking advantage of the Sept. 1 roster expansion to 40 players, which could see a handful of players gets some extended time over the final month of the season.

After the game, Gibbons announced five players who will join the team for Friday’s second in the three-game series versus the Orioles. The five are Canadian-born outfielder Michael Saunders, shortstop Richard Urena, catcher Luke Maile, outfielder Teoscar Hernandez and pitcher Carlos Ramirez.

QUICK HITS

As Gibbons said, the win “wasn’t pretty.” The Jays pitching staff combined to allow 16 hits on Thursday and has allowed 10 or more hits in six of its past seven games … With a double in the third, Josh Donaldson has seen 20 of his past 34 hits go for extra bases … Kevin Pillar had a single in his first at bat and a two-RBI double in his second for his 29th multi-hit game of the season … All 11 Jays runs on Thursday were scored with two outs in the inning ... It was another solid night at the plate for Donaldson, who reached base four times ... Every member of the Jays starting lineup not named Darwin Barney reached base at least once.