The Blue Jays battled back from an early five-run deficit to take the series and extend Minnesota’s losing streak to nine games. With Baltimore suffering another blowout loss at the hands of the Yankees, the win gives the Jays a three game lead over the Orioles and puts the ball squarely in Boston’s court.
It was a rocky start for the resurgent Marcus Stroman, but he looked to be settling in after turning a nice double play in the 3rd. Then the 4th happened, and it was a perfect illustration of what can go wrong when you live and die by the ground ball. A few weak grounders found holes and the Twins jumped ahead to a 3-0 lead before Stroman got two quick fly outs. That brought Dozier to the plate, and he promptly pulled a sinker that didn’t sink for a crucial two-run double.
Despite Buck’s bold prophesies about the offence carrying over from game to game, the Jays looked hapless early against Twins starter Ervin Santana with the red-hot Russell Martin sitting. Santana did not shy away from the heart of the Jays order, bravely pounding his fastball inside. The strategy worked against everyone except for Edwin Encarnacion, who obliterated an inside breaking ball for a two-run jack in the 6th that cut the deficit to 5-3.
The Twins quickly recovered both runs on a Trevor Plouffe fly ball that just barely scraped over the right field wall, but the Jays bats responded with three runs on two walks and back-to-back singles by Donaldson and Encarnacion in the bottom of the 7th to cut the lead to just one run. The damage came off Twins reliever Alex Pressly, who Molitor elected to leave in the game despite a high pitch count and visible signs of fatigue. Pressly has been one of the better arms in the Minnesota bullpen this season, but no doubt he would’ve been pulled had the Jays bats not erupted for 15 runs the night before.
After a clean inning of relief from Jason Grilli, Kevin Pillar got things going in the 8th with a one-out double. The next batter was Melvin Upton, who quickly fell behind 1-2. With all signs pointing to a strikeout, Upton lifted the ball into shallow right and it landed just under the glove of the diving Max Kepler. Twins centre fielder Eddie Rosario ran over to help cut the ball off, but before he could reach it Kepler accidentally kicked it all the way to the wall, allowing Upton to score the go-ahead run standing up. Roberto Osuna struck out two in a perfect 9th to earn his 29th save of the season.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
Melvin Upton’s go-ahead triple was worth an incredible +0.497 WPA, making it his clutch-est hit as a member of the Blue Jays. The hit raised Toronto’s winning percentage from 35 percent to 85 percent.
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
Tulowitzki’s line out with the tying run on third and two outs in the 7th was worth -0.109 WPA. He squared up the ball but hit it right at Brian Dozier to kill the rally.
With two outs in the bottom of the 7th, Encarnacion fought a 14-pitch battle against Twins reliever Alex Pressly that after five foul balls ended in a base hit on a scorched grounder that third baseman Trevor Plouffe couldn’t corral. The at-bat pulled Toronto to within a run, and was reminiscent of Devon Travis’ gritty 14-pitch walk that sparked a walk-off win against the Padres back in July.
Brian Dozier Is Pretty Great
One takeaway from this game: Brian Dozier is pretty great. The Twins’ second baseman led off the 1st with a single and would come around to score after a stolen base, a sac fly, and a wild pitch. By the end of the 4th, the Twins led 5-1 and Dozier was already 3-for-3 with two RBIs and several outstanding defensive plays under his belt. He may look like a high school gym teacher, but since the start of 2015 he leads all second basemen in home runs (58) and ISO (.235). He’s no Devon Travis, of course, but with his ludicrously team friendly contract he’s one of the best assets in baseball.
Donaldson Builds On His MVP Case
The MVP continues to come up big in high leverage situations for the Jays. His two-run single with two outs in the 7th was worth +0.118 WPA, which helped vault him ahead of Mike Trout for the league lead in +WPA.
Bullpen Carousel Keeps Spinning
Gibbons turned to Bo Schultz after pulling Stroman in the 7th and was rewarded with a sloppy two-run inning. The stuff was there for Schultz, but his command continues to be a major issue. Schultz was called up from Buffalo ahead of the game after lefty Aaron Loup was optioned to Triple-A, and with newly (re)acquired Dioner Navarro knocking on the door, he may be joining Loup soon.
The Jays will look to knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to complete the sweep over the Twins tomorrow afternoon. Dickey’s 3.13 ERA for August is his best of any month this season, and he will look to build on his recent success against the weak Twins lineup. They will face righty Kyle Gibson, who has struggled this season to the tune of a 5.09 ERA.
Lead Photo: Nick Turchiaro – USA Today Sports