Trying to spark an offence that hasn't met its immense expectations, the Toronto Blue Jays stacked the top of their lineup the past four games with their three main power threats.
Their performance Sunday demonstrated what the Blue Jays are trying to accomplish.
Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson started the game with back-to-back home runs off Phil Hughes in a three-run first inning, and Marcus Stroman bounced back from his worst major-league start to lead the Blue Jays over the Minnesota Twins 3-1.
Bautista homered on the fourth pitch from Hughes (1-7), his 14th home run in 21 career games at Target Field. Donaldson, ejected in the first inning Saturday, connected three pitches later for his 11th home run, a 425-foot drive to straightaway centre field.
Troy Tulowitzki added a run-scoring double later in the inning.
"I've seen it many times, different guys any given night come out of that bullpen not quite sharp," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "They haven't had a chance to settle in; sometimes you can capitalize on that."
Stroman (5-1) allowed one run and three hits in 7 2/3 innings, one start after giving up career highs of seven runs and 13 hits in a loss to Tampa Bay. Roberto Osuna got four consecutive outs for his ninth save in 10 chances.
Hughes, who leads the major leagues in losses, allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings. The right-hander left his previous start after 75 pitches, complaining of fatigue in his pitching shoulder. Hughes said he felt fine Sunday.
"The first inning was rough," Hughes said. "I felt like I settled in okay. Giving up three runs, it's a tall task for our guys to dig our way out of a hole."
Bautista homered for the third straight game and has the most homers at Target Field among visiting players. Donaldson stared at the Twins' dugout as he crossed home plate on his homer.
"Yeah, I definitely had a little bit more motivation to go out there and play," Donaldson said. "I try to go out there and play hard every day. Fact is, I wasn't too happy with how things transpired yesterday, so I definitely wanted my presence to be felt today."
Kurt Suzuki hit a run-scoring groundout in the second after Oswaldo Arcia's double put runners at second and third, starting a stretch in which Stroman retired 17 of 18 batters.
A day after Donaldson was ejected by umpire Toby Basner in the first inning, Gibbons got the early exit from crew chief Joe West in the fifth, the fourth time Gibbons has been ejected this season.
Hughes threw two pitches to the reigning AL MVP in the fifth, one inside and one behind him. Donaldson expressed his displeasure to plate umpire Mark Ripperger. Gibbons came out of the dugout and argued with Ripperger and West, who came in from his spot at first base, then was tossed. Stroman hit Suzuki with a pitch in the bottom of the inning.
Gibbons was ejected from last Sunday's game at Texas, then returned to the field during a brawl between the teams, earning a three-game suspension for both the return and inciting fighting.
The game did feature a Blue Jays gem, though, when Toronto centre fielder Kevin Pillar, who has has become known for his diving catches, added another when he leaped and stretched out to rob Brian Dozier of a possible RBI and extra bases to end the fifth inning.
This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.