Blue Jays-Angels Preview

Josh Donaldson's case for the AL MVP continues gaining steam as the Toronto Blue Jays inch closer to the top of the AL East.

Mike Trout, the reigning award winner, isn't providing much help for the Los Angeles Angels during their playoff pursuit.

The wild-card leaders continue their critical series Saturday night as Andrew Heaney takes the mound for the Angels looking to cool Donaldson and the Blue Jays.

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Toronto (67-55) made bold deals to acquire David Price, Troy Tulowitzki and Ben Revere at the trade deadline and they've helped spark the club's 17-4 surge since July 29.

The Blue Jays, however, may have made their most savvy move back in November when they dealt Brett Lawrie and three prospects to Oakland to acquire Donaldson, who set career highs with 29 homers and 98 RBIs in 2014.

Donaldson already has 33 homers and a .939 OPS that's far better than that season's .798 mark with the A's. He had a pair of RBI doubles and drove in another run to give him 94 RBIs while increasing his average to .296 in Friday's 9-2 win over the Angels (63-59).

Price pitched eight solid innings for Toronto, which moved one-half game behind the first-place New York Yankees and four games ahead of Los Angeles for the wild-card lead.

"We've got our eyes on the people in front of us," Price said. "I don't know who's behind us."

Donaldson appears to be the front-runner to take the MVP from Trout, who went 0 for 3 and fanned twice to drop his average to .183 with 23 strikeouts in 20 games this month.

Los Angeles, which has scored five times in its last three, is 9-17 since July 23 and has fallen 3 1/2 games back of Houston for the AL West lead.

"We never gave ourselves a chance," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Fortunately, it's one loss. That's all. We're going to play better (Saturday)."

The Angels, though, have won eight of the 10 times Heaney (5-1, 2.43 ERA) has taken the mound since he made his debut June 24. He allowed one run in six innings of Monday's 2-1 win over the Chicago White Sox, escaping a bases-loaded jam on a strikeout with the last of his career-high 100 pitches.

"It was a borderline pitch, but I got the call," said Heaney, who has allowed two runs or fewer nine times.

The left-hander hasn't missed much while walking only 10 in 63 innings, a positive sign after Hector Santiago walked four of the first six hitters he faced Friday. Angels pitchers have issued 19 free passes in five meetings with the Blue Jays this season.

Toronto looks to win a third straight matchup as it sends Marco Estrada (10-7, 3.20) to the hill. Estrada's ERA hit 4.24 after he allowed five runs in a win over Boston on June 14, but he's since surrendered two earned runs or fewer 10 times while posting a 2.31 ERA in 11 starts.

He took the loss last Saturday despite giving up just three hits in six innings against the Yankees. Two hits went for solo homers, one more than he'd allowed in his previous seven starts combined.

"I guess the line looks pretty good, but I missed a lot of spots," Estrada said. "I wasn't my usual self."

The right-hander made his only career start against the Angels while with Milwaukee in 2013, allowing four earned runs - including a homer to Chris Iannetta - with eight strikeouts while going seven innings in the Brewers' 6-5 loss.

Iannetta, though, is batting .094 with 13 strikeouts in his last 10.