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Jays beat Orioles in series-opener

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BALTIMORE—Josh Donaldson is making a push for another AL MVP Award while the Toronto Blue Jays may be narrowing the field in the AL East.

Donaldson hit his fourth homer in two days, and Jose Bautista also went deep in support of Marco Estrada, as the Jays beat the fading Baltimore Orioles 5-1 last night.

Toronto maintained a two-game lead over the Boston Red Sox—9-4 winners over Tampa Bay last night—for the division lead while Baltimore fell four games back.

The Orioles have lost four-of-five and are clinging to the second wild card.

Donaldson hit a solo homer in the fourth to tie it 1-1.

The reigning AL MVP had three homers in a 9-6 win over Minnesota on Sunday.

“He’s such a good player,” said Jays’ manager John Gibbons.

“When he’s doing his thing, it makes such a big difference for this team,” Gibbons noted. “It really sets everything up.

“It really helps ‘Eddie’ [Encarnacion] out behind him and those other guys to drive in runs when he’s on base.

“What can you say?” added Gibbons. “The last few years he’s come into his own.

“He’s one of the top dogs out there.”

Estrada (8-6) allowed one run and four hits, with four strikeouts, over seven-plus innings.

The Jays have won three of his four starts against the Orioles this year.

“We used a lot of curveballs early on and they weren’t really swinging at it, so I was able to get a few called strikes with that,” Estrada noted.

“I was able to locate a little better,” he added.

“I had a little better feel for my change-up today and just tried to throw strikes.”

J.J. Hardy provided Baltimore’s only run with his eighth homer in the third.

But that’s about all Baltimore could muster against Estrada.

“We’ve had trouble with him for a while,” Hardy noted. “He locates his pitches, kind of right on the top.

“His fastball is sneaky,” Hardy added. “He can elevate it, he can pitch down with it, and his change-up is a really tough pitch.”

Baltimore left-hander Wade Miley (8-11) allowed three runs and five hits while tying a season high with nine strikeouts over seven innings.

He has lost three of six starts since being acquired from Seattle on July 31.

“We just got to play ball,” Miley stressed.

“We’ve got plenty of games against Toronto,” he noted. “It’s in our own hands.

“We just got to play ball games.”

Joaquin Benoit, who was acquired from Seattle on July 26, pitched a perfect ninth for Toronto.

Benoit has yet to allow a run in 14 games (13 1/3 innings) for the Jays.

Meanwhile, catcher Dioner Navarro reported to the Jays yesterday—three days after the club re-acquired him from the Chicago White Sox for left-hander pitcher Colton Turner.

Navarro played with Toronto in 2013-14 before signing with the White Sox in December.

“I was in shock when it happened, and I was happy two minutes later because I was coming to an organization where I feel really comfortable and to a group of guys that I have good relationships with,” noted Navarro, who hit .210 with six home runs and 32 RBI in 85 games with Chicago.

To make room, catcher Josh Thole was designated for assignment.

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