Morales' HR keys 5-run 1st in win over Angels

May 22nd, 2018

TORONTO -- is finally starting to show some signs of life at the plate.

Morales went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs to help snap the Blue Jays' four-game losing streak with a 5-3 victory over the Angels on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre. Josh Donaldson chipped in with a pair of doubles while veteran lefty J.A. Happ tossed seven strong innings to earn win No. 6 on the year.

The 34-year-old Morales saw his average dip as low as .143 last week, but he now has at least one hit in each of his last three games. The two-run shot was his first since he delivered a pair of home runs against the Orioles on May 1. Earlier this month, Morales went through a career-worst 0-for-29 skid at the plate and lost some of his playing time, but the Blue Jays will have to hope his recent turnaround is a sign of things to come.

"The last week, 10 days, he hit a lot of balls on the money and didn't have a whole lot to show for it," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "You're not going to find a better guy, a harder worker. He cares about his teammates and all he wants to do is win. You feel it extra for a guy like that. He keeps showing up, he has maintained a great attitude and you hold out hope that it will turn. He has hit his whole career and hopefully tonight is the start of something good for him."

Morales' fourth home run of the season played a big role in the Blue Jays' five-run first inning that put them in the driver's seat for the entire game. Donaldson doubled while had two runners score when his fly ball to right field was dropped by Chris Young. That gave Happ more than enough run support early and improved Toronto's record to 14-6 when scoring first.

Angels right-hander allowed all five runs -- one earned -- on six hits and two walks while striking out four over five innings. The Blue Jays scored five or more runs for just the fourth time over their last 16 games, moving to 19-1 this season when scoring at least five. In this case, it happened to all take place in one inning as the Blue Jays were held scoreless the rest of the way.

"I always kept my head up. I had some soft contact, some hard contact, and the ball just wasn't falling," Morales said through an interpreter after his first homer at home since Aug. 26, 2017. "I've been doing the same thing, getting prepared every day. I knew the season was still early for me and I knew it was going to turn around sooner or later."

Happ appears to be settling into a groove after a rough seven-run start against the Mariners earlier in this month. The 35-year-old limited the Angels to three hits and three walks while allowing two runs and striking out five over seven innings. It's the second consecutive start that Happ has gone seven innings, and he's allowed a grand total of two runs and five hits over that span.

The Blue Jays and Angels entered this series at one of the lowest points of their season. Toronto was swept by Oakland in a four-game series over the weekend and had lost eight of its last 10 games. Los Angeles snapped a five-game losing streak with a win over the Rays on Sunday.

"You have to do it one game at time," said Happ, who has tossed four of Toronto's eight starts of at least seven innings this season. "It was nice to put a crooked number up there early and it was good to get this first. I really think we have been playing good baseball, though. It might sound silly after the last series that we had, but I think we're on the right track."


Closing it out: The Blue Jays have been using a closer-by-committee since was placed on an administrative leave, but it appears as though veteran is Gibbons' top choice for the job. Clippard recorded his first save on May 9, but Tuesday's outing marked his first opportunity with a fully-rested bullpen. Setup man allowed one run in the eighth, but Clippard made sure the Angels did not get any closer by tossing a scoreless ninth. Clippard retired , and to end the game.

Limiting the damage: Happ faced the minimum in every inning except for the fourth, when the Angels broke through with a pair of runs. The first two batters reached base and Pujols followed with an RBI single to put Los Angeles on the board. The inning could have turned into a much bigger problem. Instead Happ found a way to limit the damage, retiring Ohtani on a fielder's choice and then getting to ground out and Zack Cozart to fly out. It was the final rally the Angels would mount against Happ.


The Blue Jays' five runs in the first inning were their most in the opening frame since they scored five against the Twins on Aug. 26, 2017. … Donaldson snapped an 0-for-14 skid at the plate with his two-hit night. Of his 26 hits this season, 14 have gone for extra bases.

Donaldson thinks twice about running on Trout


"I think he got rid of his glasses. He wasn't wearing them tonight, was he? Maybe that's the secret."

-- Gibbons, on Morales, who has constantly alternated between wearing glasses and not wearing them this season


The Blue Jays will continue their three-game series against the Angels when right-hander (2-4, 4.47 ERA) takes the mound on Tuesday night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET. Sanchez finished his last outing tied for the third-most walks in the Major Leagues with 29. He's had difficulty repeating his mechanics after missing most of last year with a blister issue, and command has been the first thing to suffer. He'll look to get back on track vs. Los Angeles, which will start .