Donaldson goes deep as Jays top Twins
Blue Jays' Jose Bautista (left) congratulates teammate Josh Donaldson on a solo home run against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis on Friday night. The Jays won 4-3. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS — For one night anyway, the Blue Jays had a big bounce go their way and just enough offence to help fulfill their role as September spoilers.
Big solo home runs from Kevin Pillar and Josh Donaldson led the Jays to a 4-3 win over the Twins Friday night at Target Field.
In yet another example that the Jays won’t be playing out the string, they halted the Twins winning streak at three and put a bump in the Twins bid for the second American League wild-card spot.
The big bounce came in a two-run seventh inning when a sharply struck Donaldson grounder bounded off the leg of Twins reliever Ryan Pressly and almost out of the infield. The resulting single scored Russell Martin, who had his second double of the game earlier in the inning.
J.A. Happ went 6.1 innings, allowing seven hits and three earned runs for his ninth win of the season.
“We’re still competing regardless of what the standings say,” said Happ, who won his third straight decision. “We still want to win ball games.”
Roberto Osuna, who hadn’t pitched in 10 days came in to pitch the ninth and earned his 36th save. It was an efficient 1-2-3 inning for Osuna, helped by a running, sliding catch from Pillar in centre field.
And it was an important effort for Osuna, who had spectacular blown saves in his previous two starts.
It didn’t hurt getting Martin back, either. The two doubles kept the order moving, but the starting rotation loves when he’s behind the plate.
“Russ is a big part of this team,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “He had a couple of big knocks, but he’s a difference maker back there.
“All the other (young catchers) did a good job, but he’s the glue for this team. He gets the most out of these guys.”
Donaldson, who had his 26th homer of the season in the sixth, added a double in the ninth for a three-hit night. Pillar’s blast — a line drive over the left-field wall was his 16th of the season, adding to his career best. Donaldson’s 17 homers since the all-star break are third most in the American League behind Gary Sanchez of the Yankees and the Twins’ Brian Dozier, each with 18.
With the four-game series now tied at 1-1, Marco Estrada is scheduled to start for the Jays on Saturday, facing the Twins’ Adalberto Mejia.
NOT GREAT, LATE
When it gets to the ninth inning and beyond, things have not gone so well for the Jays this season.
Case in point was Thursday’s 10th inning loss to the Twins on a walk-off homer by centre fielder Byron Buxton to seal it.
It was the 15th walk-off loss of the season for the Jays, five more than any other team and just one off the AL record of 16 set by the Boston Red Sox in 1966.
Six of those walk-off defeats have come via a home run which is a club record. Overall, the Jays are now 7-15 in walk-off games this season and 5-14 in extra-inning games. Those 14 losses are another club record and the Jays winning percentage of .263 ranks 28th in all of MLB.
Pitcher Brett Anderson remains day-to-day with a developing blister on his throwing hand. The big lefty took to Twitter on Friday to register his disgust with the new baseballs.
Manager John Gibbons believes it’s not just a fluke that so many pitchers around baseball have been dogged by blister issues.
“There’s got to be something to it,” Gibbons said. “You just look at the number of them.”
Anderson left in the fifth inning of Thursday’s game after issuing three consecutive walks and a two RBI single.
Utility infielder Darwin Barney was the latest Jay to be sidelined with sickness. Gibbons sent him back to the team hotel prior to Friday’s game.