When the Toronto Blue Jays arrived in Minnesota to begin a four-game series with the Twins, they were on a five-game losing streak, fresh off a series sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays where the visitors put up 31 runs and the offense was almost nonexistent.
While the offense needed a little extra time to get going on Thursday night, starter Marco Estrada rebounded nicely and Friday night, the Jays were firing on all cylinders, finally looking like the dangerous team that won the American League East last season.
Toronto erupted for four home runs and got seven strong innings from Aaron Sanchez in a 9-3 victory.
Josh Donaldson was the first to go yard, connecting on a no-doubt two-run shot off Twins starter Tyler Duffey in the third to give the Jays a 2-1 lead. They would blow the game open in the fifth, with Troy Tulowitzki doubling home Michael Saunders, Jimmy Paredes collecting a pinch-hit RBI single and Jose Bautista capping the inning with a three-run shot off Minnesota reliever Trevor May.
Saunders would add his seventh of the year in the seventh, while Darwin Barney would hit a second-deck shot in the eighth to cap Toronto’s offensive outburst.
Even before the offence really got clicking, Sanchez was doing his thing on the bump, getting himself out of jams and minimizing mistakes to keep things tight before the bats erupted. The young righty gave up a lone run over the first six innings and one more in his final inning of work, ultimately allowing eight hits with no walks over seven while striking out seven to get the win.
Drew Storen worked the eighth, allowing a hit and picking up a strikeout, while Chad Girodo handled the ninth, giving up a solo home run to Minnesota newcomer Robbie Grossman, who went 3-for-4 with three RBI in his debut with the Twins.
This was the best the Blue Jays have looked all season, putting crooked numbers on the scoreboard, getting a quality performance on the bump and even playing a little defense, as Tulowitzki had another nifty pick early in this one and Ezequiel Carrera made a Kevin Pillar-esque diving grab in center while giving the usual starter a night off.
It certainly helps that they’re facing off with the Twins, who have now lost five straight themselves and are a Major League-worst 10-31 this season, but if that’s what it takes to get this team out of its year-long funk, so be it.
Player of the Game: Jimmy Paredes
This is going to seem like an odd selection since he had one at-bat and was replaced in the field immediately afterward, but the recently claimed utility man slapped a pinch-hit single up the middle to drive in Toronto’s third run at a pivotal juncture of the game.
Manager John Gibbons made the call to have Paredes hit for Ryan Goins and the newcomer came through, driving home Tulowitzki to make the game 4-1. While they’d go on to add five more before the game was done, at the time, this was an important insurance run and a crucial hit in a pressure situation, something that has been hard to come by for the Jays this season. Well done, Jimmy.
On Deck: After struggling mightily in his last outing, J.A. Happ (5-1, 3.40) looks to rebound as he takes the hill on Saturday afternoon against Minnesota’s Pat Dean (0-1, 4.50), who makes the first start of his Major League career.