TORONTO – David Price was blown away by the reception he got in his Toronto debut.
Then he blew away the Minnesota Twins.
Price struck out 11 over eight innings to win his first Blue Jays start, Josh Donaldson hit a tiebreaking home run and Toronto beat Minnesota 5-1 in the opener of a four-game series between AL wild-card contenders.
Acquired from Detroit last Thursday for a trio of minor league left-handers, Price received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 45,766 as he walked in from the bullpen before the game.
“That was the best atmosphere I’ve ever been in,” Price said. “I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
Price (10-4) allowed one run and three hits. He threw 119 pitches, two shy of his season high.
Price’s 11 strikeouts were the most by any pitcher in his Blue Jays debut. Roger Clemens struck out nine White Sox on April 2, 1997.
“There’s guys that kind of separate themselves,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “David’s at the top. He’s one of those guys. That’s what they do.”
NBA All-Star Kevin Durant was among those on hand to watch Price work on a sunny afternoon.
“That’s probably the coolest thing I’ve had happen to me, fan-wise,” Price said.
The lefty retired the last 15 batters he faced. He tipped his cap as he walked to the dugout after the eighth.
“He pitched like an ace today,” Minnesota starter Ervin Santana said.
Price is 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA in four starts against Minnesota this season.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, another of Toronto’s deadline additions, singled off Santana (2-2) to begin the fifth and scored on Donaldson’s 27th homer, an opposite field drive to right.
Price struck out the first two batters and set down four straight before Torii Hunter homered in the second. It was the 12th home run surrendered by Price in 10 career starts at Rogers Centre, where he’s 8-0.
Hunter, who played with Price in Detroit, called the lefty “a bulldog.”
“He’s always bearing down,” Hunter said. “Once he settled in, he’s David Price.”
Ryan Goins tied it in the bottom half with a solo homer off Santana.
Minnesota loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth, but Price got Eddie Rosario to pop out, caught Aaron Hicks looking and struck out Kurt Suzuki on a 97 mph fastball to end the threat.
“We didn’t get much going after that,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
LaTroy Hawkins finished in the ninth as the Blue Jays (55-52) closed to within percentage points of the Twins (54-51). Minnesota has played two fewer games.
Santana lost his second straight start, allowing three runs and six hits in six innings.
Edwin Encarnacion and Justin Smoak made it 5-1 with RBI singles off Blaine Boyer in the seventh.
Injured Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman, who is taking summer courses at Duke University, posted a photo on Twitter to show he was watching the game despite being in class. Stroman had the game on his phone, which he hid behind his laptop screen. Last week, Stroman tweeted that he had been reprimanded by a professor for tweeting about the Price trade while attending class.
The Blue Jays said infielder Danny Valencia, who was designated for assignment Saturday, had been claimed by Oakland. OF Ezequiela Carrera, who was also cut by the Blue Jays on Saturday, cleared waivers and was sent to Triple-A Buffalo.
Adding another arm
Toronto claimed RHP Ben Rowen off waivers from the Chicago Cubs and assigned him to Triple-A Buffalo. Rowen is 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA and one save in 34 games at Double-A and Triple-A this season.
Twins: RHP Tyler Duffey was selected from Triple-A Rochester to start Wednesday in place of LHP Tommy MIlone (elbow).
Twins: RHP Phil Hughes (10-6, 4.11 ERA) has won six straight decisions and has not lost since June 8 against Kansas City. Hughes will make his 30th appearance against Toronto, his most against any opponent.
Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada (8-6, 3.53 ERA) will try to win back-to-back starts for the first time since a four-start winning streak in June when he faces the Twins for the first time this season. Estrada has allowed more than two earned runs just once in his past eight outings.