Aggressive Donaldson races home on popout
TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson is one of the frontrunners for the American League MVP Award because of his bat and glove, but in Wednesday night's 5-1 win over the Indians, it was his legs that had the fans at Rogers Centre in a frenzy.
Donaldson scored from third on a sacrifice popup to shallow right-center field and later stretched a single into a double by taking advantage of a lackadaisical Michael Brantley in left field. Donaldson finished the game 3-for-4 with two doubles, three RBIs and a pair of runs scored.
It was yet another all-around performance that has become a regular occurrence since he joined the Blue Jays during the offseason. Donaldson's teammates have been watching it on a daily basis and still can't help but marvel at his abilities.
"It's gotten to the point where nothing this guy does surprises you anymore," said Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey, who tossed a complete game in the win. "He's a super hero, really. He's in a special place right now. He has such a great game clock, and you can't really teach that. It's an intangible that some guys possess, and he's got it."
The play that everybody was talking about Wednesday night happened in the second inning, when the Blue Jays had the bases loaded with one out. Troy Tulowitzki was at the plate, and he hit a shallow popup into right-center field. Second baseman Jason Kipnis ran back to make the easy catch, and it appeared as though Toronto was in danger of wasting a perfect scoring opportunity.
Donaldson had other ideas, as he tagged up on the play and caught the Indians off-guard by making a break for home. The throw from Kipnis moved Indians catcher Yan Gomes in front of the plate, and that provided just enough room for Donaldson to go wide with a headfirst slide as he touched home with his left hand.
The 29-year-old Donaldson leaped to his feet once he got the safe call from home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher and slapped his hands together in celebration. "MVP, MVP" chants quickly rained down from the stands, and the scene couldn't have been more fitting for a player who has excelled at every aspect of his game this season.
"It's something that I don't do very often -- that's probably not the strength of my game, I would say -- but I try to be on top of what I need to do and what the defense is going to be able to give me," Donaldson said. "People might call it baseball IQ, but I try to think as the game is going on and what opportunities I'm going to have, and when they show up I try to take advantage of it."
In addition to essentially stealing home, Donaldson also turned a single into a double during the fourth inning. He sliced a ball into left field and made a wide turn at first, but decided to stop running. That plan changed when Brantley took his time getting the ball back into the infield.
As soon as Donaldson saw Brantley pause before throwing the ball, he took off running again. This time he made it into second base safely for his second double of the game. That capped an impressive night that also included an RBI single in the first and a two-run double off the wall in left during the second.
"I know Brantley has a really good arm, and he's accurate with it too," Donaldson said. "I just saw something where he kind of came up, and I don't know if he was assuming that I was going to be at second, but once I kind of saw him pause, I felt like I had another chance, because when I took my turn, I was pretty far off the bag, and once I saw a little hesitation, I felt like I could take it."
Donaldson increased his Major League-leading RBI total to 110, with Colorado's Nolan Arenado entering Wednesday a distant second with 98. Toronto's third baseman is now hitting .358 (43-for-120) with 12 homers and 43 RBIs over his last 31 games.
In the AL, Donaldson entered play on Wednesday ranked first in extra-base hits (72), total bases (299), tied for second in home runs (36) and third in slugging (.584). According to Fangraphs, he also ranked second in the Majors with a 7.4 WAR, which trailed Washington's Bryce Harper (7.7).
"He's a mad man, that's a great play," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of scoring from third. "The second baseman, he heads out and he's backpedaling a little bit, you see that more out of your flyers, your speed guys. Then of course he took second base on the ball to left field too.
"He's on a mission. Hopefully he rests tomorrow, he can probably use a day off. I don't know how you sum up his year. He's at the top of just about every category there is. It's fun to watch, it's fun to be a part of."