Josh Donaldson apparently wasn’t happy about missing most of Saturday’s game.
The Toronto star and 2015 American League MVP crushed a long home run in the first inning Sunday and stared into the Twins dugout at bench coach Joe Vavra, the man he said was responsible for getting him ejected on Saturday.
Soon, it was time to brush up on the unwritten rules of baseball.
By the end of the game, Donaldson had a pitch thrown behind him, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons had been ejected, Kurt Suzuki had been plunked and the Twins had lost 3-1. Toronto won three of the four games at Target Field while the Twins lost for the 18th time in 22 games.
Jose Bautista jumped on Phil Hughes’ fourth pitch of the game and laced it into the seats in left field for a leadoff home run, his third in as many games and his 14th all-time at Target Field. Three pitches later, Donaldson drilled a Hughes fastball onto the grass behind the center field fence, giving Toronto back-to-back homers to lead off a game for the first time since June 14, 2006.
As Donaldson crossed the plate, he took an extra step toward the Twins dugout while glaring at Vavra. Donaldson said Vavra was the one he was yelling back at Saturday, when plate umpire Toby Basner thought it was being directed at him and ejected the Blue Jays third baseman.
“I looked right at the guy who chirped me yesterday and got me thrown out,” Donaldson said, “letting him know I was coming to play today.”
Toronto made it 3-0 in the first inning when Troy Tulowitzki doubled in Michael Saunders. The Twins pushed home a run in the second, but that was it. Hughes settled down to pitch six innings, which the Twins needed after he left Wednesday’s start at Detroit after 75 pitches due to shoulder fatigue.
Hughes got Donaldson to fly out to right to end the second. But when Donaldson batted in the fifth, Hughes’ first pitch was a waist-high fastball that Donaldson dodged. Hughes’ next pitch was behind Donaldson’s rear end, and Donaldson turned toward umpire Mark Ripperger to complain.
“I’m pretty sure he knew there was something coming,” Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe said. “Things like that tend to take care of themselves. He’s played the game long enough. He knows.”
Gibbons rushed out to join in, and crew chief Joe West came in from first base to consult. Gibbons ended up being ejected for the third time in eight days. Donaldson then popped out.
“I [pitched] away from him first at-bat and we all saw what happened there,” said Hughes (1-7). “Second at-bat, I went in twice, I believe, and ended up having pretty good success that way. I tried to go in twice [in the fifth] and missed. That’s just part of it. I don’t know what he was upset about.”
Said Donaldson: “In the rule book, it clearly says if a pitcher throws at somebody, the ump can [eject him]. Do I think Phil Hughes was throwing at me? No, it was someone else on their bench [who ordered him to].”
The chipiness didn’t end there. Suzuki was hit in the shoulder by a Marcus Stroman pitch in the fifth. Stroman (5-1) was outstanding, holding the Twins to one run and three hits over 7 ⅔ innings, so that pitch was the exception.
“I was happy he hit me with two strikes,” Suzuki said, “the way he was throwing.”
Stroman later barked at Plouffe after he got him to pop out to end the sixth. Plouffe responded by using his right hand to mimic talking.
The Twins didn’t talk as if they will have long memories after this one. But they did experience the fire that has made Donaldson one of the fiercest competitors in the league.
“It was a heat-of-the-moment kind of thing,” said Suzuki, who is friends with Donaldson from their days in Oakland. “All that extracurricular stuff, we’ll leave it at that. He plays the game the right way. He plays the game hard. He might do some stuff that annoys people but, at the same time, he understands what he’s bringing upon himself, and you respect him for that.”