Better Than Before: Josh Donaldson leads Blue Jays past Tigers 6-1

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TORONTO:Â R.A. Dickey believes this year’s edition of the Toronto Blue Jays is in better shape than last season’s. The knuckleballer tossed seven innings of one-run baseball on Sunday afternoon as the Blue Jays defeated the Detroit Tigers 6-1, allowing five hits while striking out five and walking two as Toronto won for the eighth time in its past 10 games. Still, Dickey (7-9) thinks the Blue Jays have more momentum heading into the all-star break than last year’s team, which won the American League East crown and got to the American League Championship Series. “I’d say we’re certainly in a better position now, than we have been in the past,” said Dickey. “The thing that’s so encouraging to me is (Jose) Bautista is not with us and Edwin (Encarnacion) wasn’t in there today so the streak we’re in right now, and the way that we’ve been playing, doesn’t feel fluke-ish.” Josh Donaldson belted a three-run home run and Josh Thole drove in a pair for Toronto (51-40). The Tigers (46-43) have dropped three of their last four heading into the break. The Blue Jays starting rotation finished the first half of the season leading the American League in earned-run average (3.64) and innings pitched (579.1). “It’s fun to watch guys grow,” Dickey said of the rotation. “Grow up and grow as human beings and pitchers. I’m watching (J.A.) Happ, (Aaron) Sanchez and Stro (Marcus Stroman) all kind of grow up from being toddlers in the big leagues to kind of graduating into their adolescence here and it’s fun to watch. “That dynamic is not something I really take for granted ’cause its rare.” Donaldson broke the game open with a three-run home run in the fourth inning to give Toronto a 5-0 lead. The Blue Jays third baseman put Anibal Sanchez’s 0-1 fastball into the seats in left-centre field for his 23rd homer of the season. Donaldson became just the sixth player in AL history to score 80 runs and hit 20 home runs prior to the all-star break. The others were Lou Gehrig (1936), Ted Williams (1946), Reggie Jackson (1969), Frank Thomas (1994), and Alex Rodriguez (2000). “I think the 80 runs, that has something to do with the guys behind me driving me in,” said Donaldson. “The fact of the matter is, I feel like I do a pretty decent job on the bases: taking an extra base, stealing a bag every now and again, but that doesn’t always necessarily lead up to 80 runs. Eddie’s hit some homers, (Michael) Saunders hit some homers _ bats behind me have been hitting some homers.” Anibal Sanchez (5-10) allowed five runs on eight hits while striking out six and walking a pair over five innings of work. Dustin Molleken, a native of Regina who spent 13 seasons in the minor leagues, pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for the Tigers. He struck out three and walked one while surrendering three hits in his second career big league appearance. “It was unbelievable,” Molleken said. “It was a very special time today, especially being at home. I’m happy I got to throw with my family and my friends here. “I showed today I belong up here.” Thole got the Blue Jays offence started in the second inning, slapping a single to right field to score Troy Tulowitzki and Kevin Pillar. The Tigers broke up Dickey’s shutout in the fifth as Mike Aviles led off with a triple and later scored. Saunders added to the Blue Jays lead in the eighth, delivering an RBI single. Note: Blue Jays DH Edwin Encarnacion rescinded the appeal of his one-game suspension and served it on Sunday.