An Early Mother’s Day Present
Right before the start of a game, most professional players do everything in their power to focus on the task at hand; listening to their favorite music, going over scouting reports and maintaining superstitious habits are the norm in the clubhouse.
Taking a photo with your mother and receiving the first pitch from behind home plate from her probably would be the furthest thing from that routine. Not only did that happen for reigning American League MVP Josh Donaldson, it was a realization of a dream that came true for her mother – literally.
Preceding the Blue Jays’ rubber game with the Oakland Athletics on Sunday, Donaldson was presented with the Silver Slugger Award as the best-hitting third baseman in the AL from 2015, as well as the Players Choice Award as the American League’s Most Outstanding Player from last season. Also, the promotion for the game was a Josh Donaldson MVP bobblehead, one last reminder of the great season he had in leading Toronto to their first postseason – and first postseason series victory – in 22 years.
But the biggest prize that was present and awaiting for Donaldson was made of skin and flesh, not silver or plastic. Lisa French, Donaldson’s mom, was flown into Toronto to feature in the pregame pomp, posing for a photo-op with her son and Troy Tulowitzki, then throwing out the first pitch, which was caught by Donaldson.
It was a dream come true, and, according to Donaldson, that dream occurred as recent as a few days ago.
“You don’t think about it ever happening, as far as myself, I’ve never really thought about my mother throwing the first pitch,” said Donaldson after the game. “[My mother] told me yesterday that she had a dream a weekend or so ago about throwing the first pitch, and then she got the news that she was doing it. It’s a heavy moment for both of us.”
Donaldson, and the rest of the Jays, were able to lock in afterward and come away with a 6-3 series-clinching win over Oakland, with Josh scoring two runs along with hitting a double in the third inning after an Ezequiel Carrera homer to lead off the inning.
No Bottom Feeders
Donaldson, as well as Jose Bautista (two-run home run in the fourth inning) produced as most would expect, it was the bottom of the order that broke the game open. With the game tied at one in the third, A’s starting pitcher Eric Surkamp intentionally walked fifth-place hitter Troy Tulowitzki to put runners on first and second. Passing on facing Tulo to face the lighter-hitting bottom of the order makes sense 10 times out of 10, but Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar and Darwin Barney all proceeded with run-scoring singles to give the Jays a 4-1 lead. Getting production after the Murders’ Row of Donaldson, Bautista Edwin Encarnacion and Tulowitzki is a key to Toronto’s long-term viability as front-runner in the AL East.
“That was a big part of our success last year, guys at the bottom of the order making a conscious effort to turn the lineup over and not try to do too much,” said Pillar, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a stolen base. “Just take our hits when they’re there and have good at-bats and today was an example of it.”
Hitters 6-9 each had at least one hit, combining to go 6-for-16 with three of the six runs driven in. All of the runs were in support of Drew Hutchison, called up from Triple-A Buffalo to make his first start of 2016 with the Blue Jays. He gave up just two runs and four hits in 5.2 innings. Each of the runs came on home runs, with Khris Davis hitting one to lead off the second inning and Josh Reddick going deep with one out in the sixth.
[Cover photo (Donaldson) courtesy of A Lot of Sports Talk]