Rosario, Mauer slug Twins past Blue Jays
MINNEAPOLIS — Toronto got to Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson early, but Twins hitters battered Blue Jays pitching more often as Minnesota capped its penultimate homestand of the season with a 13-7 win for a four-game series split.
Eddie Rosario homered twice and Joe Mauer hit his fourth career grand slam as the Twins scored seven runs in the second inning and six in the fifth to win the season series over the Blue Jays 4-3.
With the New York Yankees falling to the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Angels losing to Texas, the win draws Minnesota within four games of New York for the AL’s top wild-card spot and extends its lead to two games over Los Angeles for the second wild-card position.
Toronto’s Josh Donaldson homered in each of the first two innings to help stake starter Joe Biagini (3-11) to an early five-run lead. But Rosario and Byron Buxton hit back-to-back homers to lead off the second and spark a seven-run Twins rally.
Buxton had three hits, including a double, and Rosario and Mauer were each 3-for-5 with Mauer adding a double and driving in five runs
After a rocky start, Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson (11-10) settled in to strike out eight batters in six innings. Gibson retired the 14 of the last 15 batters he faced, including the final 13 after Donaldson’s second of the game made it 5-0 with one out in the second.
“He’s had a nice run of five starts that were really good, but this one in some ways is mayba a little more impressive,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “To give us six innings after that start, that was pretty good for us and we found a way to win one of the bigger games we’ve faced.”
Run support has not been a problem for Gibson. The Twins have outscored opponents 61-12 in his last six starts, including 17-0 and 16-0 wins.
“Maybe he knew, subconsciously that the double-digit run support was going to come somewhere along the way,” Molitor said.
Gibson walked five batters but allowed only three hits, all in the first two innings.
“(Twins catcher Jason) Castro saw something just mechanically that I was doing that was helping with the misfires there,” Gibson said. “Castro’s really good at that.”
With the Twins leading 7-5, Eduardo Escobar started a string of four straight singles off Toronto right-hander Chris Rowley to extend the lead to 8-5. It also set the table for Mauer, who easily cleared the right-field wall.
“We had a couple tough losses the last couple days and to be down 5-0 early to a pretty good team over there in Toronto, I was proud of the guys the way we responded,” Mauer said.
One out later, Rowley surrendered Rosario’s second of the game.
“In fairness, I can’t remember the last time he was out there,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “He’s been sitting there. That’s not an easy situation. They swing it. It is very, very difficult to go out there because he’s a guy that’s generally command and feel. So you’ve got to get steady work.”
The Blue Jays took advantage of Gibson’s control problems for four first-inning runs. After Gibson struck out leadoff hitter Ezequiel Carrera, Donaldson launched a 1-0 pitch into Target Field’s second deck in left-center field. Donaldson’s 29th of the season gives him an AL-leading 20 home runs since the All-Star break.
Gibson issued free passes to four of the next five batters and walked in a run before catcher Raffy Lopez’s two-run single plated Jose Bautista and Kevin Pillar. Gibson finished the inning with 35 pitches but only 14 for strikes.
With one out in the second, Donaldson tagged Gibson with another solo shot, his 30th homer of the year, and Minnesota trailed 5-0 heading into the bottom half of the second.
“He’s definitely hot now, but I’ve seen him a lot times do that,” Gibbons said of Donaldson. “He had a tremendous series. He’s sitting on 30 right now. To think that he missed six or seven weeks, that tells you something.”
After Rosario and Buxton homered, one-out singles by Escobar and Jason Castro and a Robbie Grossman walk loaded the bases for Brian Dozier, who dropped a run-scoring single into left field to chase Biagini.
Mauer greeted reliever Tim Mayza by reaching on an error by Blue Jays second baseman Ryan Goins, scoring Castro and Grossman.
“I put them in a tough position for what they want to do,” Biagini said. “I don’t blame them for taking me out. I wish I would have gotten a chance to stay in, fight through it and limit the damage. But I understand what they’re thinking, so I don’t blame anybody.”
Jorge Polanco forced out Mauer at second to score Dozier. Rosario’s second hit of the inning, a single, forced Gibbons to replace Mayza with Luis Santos. But Buxton doubled for his second hit of the inning to drive in Polanco to boost Minnesota’s lead to 7-5 after two innings.
“I think as a starting pitcher whenever you get to hit the reset button in the second inning, third inning, it makes a big difference,” Gibson said. “Molly probably doesn’t leave me out there if the offense doesn’t come up with those big runs there and give us a lead.”
The Blue Jays scored twice in the seventh off Twins reliever Aaron Slegers when Justin Smoak doubled in Carrera and Bautista’s groundout scored Donaldson.
NOTES: Blue Jays 3B Josh Donaldson’s first-inning home run traveled an estimated at 476 feet, making it the third longest in Target Field history behind Jim Thome’s 480 footer in 2010 and Thome’s 490-foot shot in 2011. ... Donaldson has feasted off Twins’ pitching for six home runs and 10 RBIs this season. ... Toronto has Monday off before opening its final homestand of the season against Kansas City on Tuesday. ... Minnesota OF Eddie Rosario’s second-inning home run marked the 16th straight game the Twins have homered, tying a team record for the second time this season. ... Twins 1B Joe Mauer’s grand slam is his first since Sept. 1, 2012. ... Minnesota hits the road for the final time this season when it kicks off an 11-day, 10-game trip on Monday in New York against the Yankees before heading to Detroit and Cleveland.