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Morales' 2 homers power Blue Jays past O's

Designated hitter drives in 4 runs; Pillar rebounds with 2 doubles
August 20, 2018

TORONTO -- Kendrys Morales hasn't enjoyed a lot of signature games for the Blue Jays this season, but Monday night's performance against the Orioles will certainly qualify.Morales hit a pair of home runs and finished with four RBIs to help lead the Blue Jays to a 5-3 victory at Rogers

TORONTO -- Kendrys Morales hasn't enjoyed a lot of signature games for the Blue Jays this season, but Monday night's performance against the Orioles will certainly qualify.
Morales hit a pair of home runs and finished with four RBIs to help lead the Blue Jays to a 5-3 victory at Rogers Centre. It was the second multi-homer game of the season for Morales and the 22nd of his career as Toronto snapped a four-game losing streak.
Kevin Pillar chipped in with a pair of doubles and appeared to be playing with an edge one day after he received an earful from manager John Gibbons because of an ill-advised baserunning decision. Right-hander Marco Estrada earned the victory after he allowed three runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out four.

"It's the same swing, he's just hitting it now," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Morales, who became the 150th player in MLB history with at least 22 multi-homer games. "He got off to a slow start and then he regrouped. … Along the way he had some tough luck, no doubt, but the last couple of months he has been as steady as can be."
Morales hit a solo homer in the bottom of the fourth, and in the following inning he unloaded on a three-run homer to right field. The three-run shot was Morales' 16th home run of the season and it was a no-doubter off Orioles right-hander Andrew Cashner. According to Statcast™, the ball was projected to travel 437 feet and left his bat at 109 mph.

This was Morales' first multi-homer game since he went deep twice against the Twins on May 1. Morales is now four home runs shy of reaching the 20-homer plateau for the fourth consecutive season. The 35-year-old has five multi-homer games since joining the Blue Jays, and two of them have come against Baltimore, including a three-homer performance at Camden Yards on Aug. 31, 2017.
Morales finished the game with a .773 OPS on the season, which is just slightly below his career mark of .787. The native of Cuba was slashing just .150/.239/.270 on May 19, but since then he has turned things around by hitting .296 with 13 home runs and 34 RBIs.
"People tried to write this guy off after the first month of the season, but you look at the back of his baseball card and he has been a good hitter his whole career," Pillar said of Morales. "Some guys just start off slow, and after that slow start he got off to, he has been pretty consistent and that's what you expect out of him."

Estrada had multiple baserunners in three out of the first four innings, but he continuously found a way to either escape the jam or limit the damage. He escaped a bases-loaded situation in the third by limiting Chris Davis to a sacrifice fly and then got third baseman Renato Nunez to pop out to catcher Danny Jansen. Nunez did get some revenge later in the game by leading off the sixth with a solo shot for his third of the year and Estrada departed later in that inning with a runner on second.
The next scheduled outing for Estrada is Sunday vs. Philadelphia, which would be his final start before the Aug. 31 deadline for players to be eligible for postseason play. If a contending team wants to add Estrada for the stretch run and possible October baseball, that will be their final opportunity to scout him before the deadline. Estrada is one of several Blue Jays players still being shopped, including third baseman Josh Donaldson, outfielder Curtis Granderson and reliever Tyler Clippard.
"I'm a Blue Jay, I've said it a million times, I love playing here," Estrada said. "This is my main concern. If [a trade] happens, wherever that move is to, I'll focus on that. But right now, I'm here, I'm a Blue Jay and I'm focused on winning here, plain and simple."
Gibbons had a little bit of fun with the television cameras after Pillar's double in the bottom of the first inning. One day after he got into a one-sided exchange with Pillar in the dugout, a camera zoomed in on Gibbons after the double and Toronto's manager broke into laughter, nodded and then gave a big thumbs-up. It's clear their prior incident is now water under the bridge.

"I don't know what the big deal was anyways, to be honest with you," Gibbons said. "You guys get a little rattled up here. He has been getting hits. He had a couple of doubles tonight. This isn't rocket science, you don't need the stats to tell us, I've been watching the games, if a guy is hot, put him at second, right? It's pretty simple and he responded."
Jansen became the third rookie in franchise history to record at least one hit in each of his first six career games. Jansen finished 1-for-4 with a ground-rule double in the fourth inning. Jesse Barfield (1981) and Ryan Goins (2013) had at least one hit in each of their first eight games.
"The second one, he just threw me a meatball pretty much and I hit it much better than the first one." -- Morales, through an interpreter in reference to his second home run off Cashner

Right-hander Sam Gaviglio (2-6, 5.13 ERA) will take the mound at Rogers Centre when the Blue Jays continue their three-game series against the Orioles on Tuesday night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET. Gaviglio will look to get back on track after he allowed five runs over 4 1/3 innings in his last outing vs. the Royals. He has not recorded a quality start since June 30 and hasn't completed six innings since July 20. Baltimore will counter with right-hander Dylan Bundy (7-11, 4.99).

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.