Heading into the bottom of the eighth on Saturday, everything looked in line for Toronto to pick up their third consecutive victory. Jose Bautista’s third-inning, two-run home run – his 13th in 20 games at Target Field – had staked the road team to a lead and J.A. Happ had allowed three base runners through seven.
Six more outs and the Jays would head into Sunday looking for a four-game sweep. Instead, Toronto now heads into today’s finale looking to rebound from another late-inning collapse after Minnesota scored five in the bottom of the eighth leading to a 5-3 victory.
With Happ still on the hill to start the inning, a single and a walk set the table for Danny Santana’s two-run double, which chased the lefty from the game. Gavin Floyd replaced him, hit Brian Dozier and then gave up a 400-foot home run to Eduardo Nunez.
Six batters, one out and five runs later, Toronto was down three heading into the top of the ninth. While they would get one back thanks to Michael Saunders’ second home run in as many days (his eighth of the season), Twins reliever Kevin Jepsen was able to close things out to preserve the victory.
Wins in the previous two games lessen the blow of Saturday’s loss, but it’s another game where the vaunted Toronto offense failed to give their starter much support, creating a situation where one bad inning alters the outcome of the game. A day after putting up nine runs on 14 hits, the Jays managed just six hits and might have to take a good, long look at making some changes to the lineup in order to remedy things.
They did play the majority of yesterday’s game minus Josh Donaldson, as home plate umpire Toby Basner ejected the “Bringer of Rain” after he grounded out in the top of the first. Donaldson said something to the made behind the dish on his way back to the dugout and Basner gave him the heave. Darwin Barney shifted to third, with Ryan Goins coming off the bench to go 0-for-3.
With the addition of Jimmy Paredes, who has hit well in limited opportunities since being picked up off waivers, and Barney’s consistency so far this season, Goins might continue to see his playing time diminished. He’s batting just .148 for the year with an OBP below .200, which just doesn’t cut the mustard, even if he’s at the bottom of the order and slick in the field. While Russell Martin will still catch the bulk of the games because of his outstanding game-calling and defensive skills, a drop in the order might be needed, as his 1-for-4 performance on Saturday lifted his average to .178.
Manager John Gibbons might want to pull back the reins on Floyd a little too, as the first-year Jay, who pitched his way into high-leverage situations with a strong start to the season, has now allowed five hits and four earned runs over his last 4.1 innings of work. With Rule V draftee Joe Biagini showing he’s capable of handling some late inning work, alternating the two might be in order.
Player of the Game: Jose Bautista
“Joey Bats” seems to be coming around. In addition to launching his second homer in as many games and third in the last five, Bautista is being more aggressive at the plate, without sacrificing his good eye. Though he continues to pile up walks, the Blue Jays right fielder only saw 12 pitches in four plate appearances on Saturday, including a walk; a low total for the notoriously picky and often pitched-around slugger.
Moving him into the lead-off position has been fruitful thus far, as Bautista has gone 4-for-12 through three games, raising his average nine points in the process. As Bautista goes, so go the Blue Jays and if this trip to one of his favourite hitting parks is the start of a strong run for him, Toronto could work their way back into the American League East race before summer kicks off.
On Deck: This four game set wraps up with another afternoon tilt as Phil Hughes (1-6, 5.70) takes the hill for the Twins, while the Jays counter with their ace, Marcus Stroman (4-1, 4.23).