Kendrys Morales was raked over the coals earlier in the season, when the Toronto Blue Jays veteran couldn’t hit a lick.
But times have changed for the switch-hitting Cuban native, who homered for the seventh successive game (eighth over all) on Sunday at Rogers Centre to set a franchise record. However, it was in a losing cause as the Philadelphia Phillies (70-60) took out the Blue Jays (60-70) 8-3 to snap Toronto’s season-long five-game win streak.
Morales is now tied with three others – Barry Bonds, Kevin Mench and Jim Thome – for the second-longest such streak in history.
If Morales can homer in his next game he will move into a first-place tie for baseball’s consecutive-game home-run streak. The others to do it are Ken Griffey Jr. in 1993 with the Seattle Mariners, Don Mattingly in 1987 with the New York Yankees and Dale Long in 1956 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “It would be something, you know, if he kept this rolling. I don’t think any of us can comprehend how hard it is to do. It really couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
“So yeah, keep going. See what the heck happens.”
Morales is a soft-spoken veteran of 12 major-league seasons who rarely lets the highs and lows of the game affect him.
But after he took Philadelphia starter Vince Velasquez over the wall in right with his team-leading 21st homer, a two-run shot that cut the Phillies lead to 5-2 in the third, Morales clapped his hands several times in excitement as he headed down the first-base line.
After the game, Morales found out that Cooperstown was also a bit excited. The Baseball Hall of Fame was asking for one of the bats he used during the streak and Morales was only too happy to make a donation.
“There’s a lot of emotions,” Morales said, speaking through an interpreter. “Just really happy that they want something.”
Morales entered the game tied with Jose Cruz, who also homered in seven straight for Toronto during the 2001 season. That sweet stroke on Sunday also extended his consecutive-game hit streak to 10.
It is a startling turnaround for Morales, who had a rough start to the season when his average dipped as low as .143 on May 10, when he only had three home runs.
With his 1-for-3 afternoon on Sunday, Morales is now hitting at a .500 clip (17-34) over the past 10 games.
While Morales was in a celebratory mood, Toronto starter Marco Estrada was far from one.
With a fastball that was anything but – often lollygagging in there at 87-miles-an-hour – Estrada could not get out of the third inning.
He was roughed up for two runs in the first inning off back-to-back home runs by Rhys Hoskins and Carlos Santana.
Estrada surrendered another run in the second and two more in the third for a 5-0 lead after a Maikel Franco two-run shot.
Following a walk to Odubel Herrera, Gibbons had seen enough and Estrada’s short afternoon was done and his line – five runs off seven hits with four walks and three home runs – is about as ugly as it gets.
Estrada is loath to make any excuses, but he did admit he has a sore back.
“I’ve stayed away from saying anything but it’s pretty obvious I’m not 100 per cent right now,” Estrada said. “But I’m good enough to be out there and I don’t plan on missing anything. I’m going to work through this. Maybe, I don’t know, get a cortisone shot or something, numb it up and be ready to go for the next one.”
The Blue Jays head out on a six-game trip.
Note: The team tried to bring some clarity to the Josh Donaldson situation, the third baseman who has been laid up since May 29 with a calf injury. Over the weekend, Donaldson’s locker was cleared out, fuelling some speculation something was up. Through a club official Donaldson sent word he just needed his belongings in anticipation of starting a rehab assignment.