TORONTO — Josh Donaldson briefly turned Rogers Centre into a hockey arena on Sunday.
With the Blue Jays wearing their red uniforms on Canada Baseball Day at Rogers Centre, the Toronto third baseman hit three home runs for a hat trick in a 9-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins. Fans threw hats on the field after Donaldson’s third homer in the eighth inning for the Jays, who completed the three-game sweep.
"It’s one of those things, as a baseball player, you want to happen one day," said Donaldson of hitting three homers in a single game. "You don’t know it it’s ever going to happen, it’s kind of a rare thing (and) I was happy to do it."
After the game Donaldson posted a picture on Twitter of him holding up two clear garbage bags filled with ballcaps that the grounds crew and Blue Jays mascot Ace had collected from the field.
Donaldson’s two-run homer (74-56) in the seventh gave Toronto a 6-5 lead and helped extend the Twins’ (49-81) losing streak to 10 games.
"You can start to see it at the beginning of this home stand, he was just missing some pitches, he just skied a couple breaking balls," said Toronto manager John Gibbons. "He’s capable of that, we have a few guys who are capable of doing something like that, it’s a rare feat."
The 30-year-old Donaldson followed that by completing the homer trifecta with a solo shot to dead centre in the eighth, his 33rd. The third baseman’s first career three home run game helped Toronto rally from a 5-2 deficit after coming back from a 5-0 deficit Saturday. Following Donaldson’s third homer of the day and fifth in four games, hats poured onto the field.
"I think it’s unique to this area (the hat-trick) right, so it’s really cool," said Jays starter R.A. Dickey "You don’t see something like that very often, I think the response was warranted."
The sell-out crowd of 47,444 largely draped in red and white colours, demanded a curtain call from him.
"I’ve never had a curtain call before so that was nice. I tried to enjoy it for a second," Donaldson said. "Eddie was on deck after I hit the third one and he had a huge smile on his face, that kind of brought it into reality a little bit there."
Dickey gave up five runs, three earned, over six innings, scattering six hits and three walks.
"To win championships, you have to beat the teams you should beat, today we were able to do that," Dickey said. "It was a team effort all around and Josh had a special day today, it was neat to sit back and watch him to do his thing."
Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson threw 5 1/3 innings allowing four runs and eight hits.
Jose Bautista led off the seventh with a single, his third hit of the day, and Donaldson followed that up with a centre-field bomb off Pat Light, his 32nd of the season.
Light gave up a single to Troy Tulowitzki later in the inning and was replaced by J.T. Chargois, who didn’t fare much better. Chargois walked Kevin Pillar and was tagged with a two-run double by Melvin Upton Jr., giving Toronto a three-run lead.
Light (0-1) took the loss while Scott Feldman (7-4) pitched 2/3 of an inning in relief for the win.
Bautista led off the first with a double as Twins’ outfielders Robbie Grossman and Danny Santana collided, allowing it to drop in. Edwin Encarnacion later drove in Bautista with a sacrifice fly giving Toronto a 1-0 lead. Santana left the game with a left shoulder sprain as a result of the collision and was replaced by Eddie Rosario in centre field.
In the third, Rosario came around to score on a fielder’s choice RBI by Max Kepler. Rosario hit a hard single into right field and reached second on Donaldson’s throwing error.
Donaldson made up for his ninth error of the season almost immediately, smoking a Gibson offering into the second deck in left in the bottom half. The third baseman’s 31st homer of the year gave the Jays a 2-1 lead.
Dickey ran into trouble in the fifth giving up a one-out single to Rosario, followed by walking Dozier and Joe Mauer to load up the bases for Kepler once again. The 23-year-old rookie tied up the game for the second time on a fielder’s choice RBI. With two outs, Trevor Plouffe and Miguel Sano delivered clutch RBI singles as Minnesota stretched their lead to 5-2.
Tulowitzki responded by leading off the sixth with his 22nd homer of the season, a no-doubter over the centre field wall. Pillar followed with a double and came around to score on a Devon Travis’ RBI single, making it 5-4. Joe Mauer hit an RBI single in the ninth off Roberto Osuna to make it 9-6.
NOTES: LHP Aaron Loup cleared waivers and was optioned to triple A-Buffalo.