Edwin Encarnacion was three-for-four with four runs batted in, leading the Toronto Blue Jays (84-76) to a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins (93-67), Friday night, at Target Field.
With the game tied at two in the eighth, the Jays exploded for four runs off of Toronto native Jesse Crain.
Encarnacion hit a three-run home run that blew the game open, and ended a seven-inning pitching-duel between Jays’ ace Ricky Romero and Twins’ veteran Carl Pavano.
Pavano (17-11), had left the game with it tied headed to the eighth, but his solid performance was spoiled by the rally. He finished with three strike outs and a walk, while allowing one earned run on nine hits, for the no decision.
Jays’ catcher John Buck had a big game, going three-for-four, with three singles. His biggest one came off of Crain with two outs in the eighth, driving in the go-ahead run.
It would be quickly followed by Encarnacion’s blast, which put Toronto up four, and kept them in front for good.
Romero (14-9) went eight innings strong, allowing six hits, two earned runs and striking out nine. He did not give up a walk for the first time all year, and the 26-year-old picked up his career high 14th win of the season.
Minnesota got to Romero early, as Delmon Young led off the second with his 21st home run of the season. However, Romero would settle down in a hurry, striking out the side to end the threat.
Both pitchers were dealing until the fifth, when Adam Lind led-off with a double off Pavano. John Buck promptly delivered a slap-bunt perfectly down the first baseline, that the Toronto catcher somehow ran out to put runners on the corners.
Encarnacion then singled home Lind to tie things at one, before Pavano was able to finish off the top of the Jays’ order, ending the inning.
Romero would unload his American league leading 18th wild pitch of the year in the sixth , and it put a runner in scoring position for Joe Mauer. The 2009 MVP playing in his first game at catcher since Sept 19, broke the tie with a single, making it 2-1.
However, Toronto used an error from Twins’ second baseman Nick Punto to manufacture an unearned run, and tie the game at twos in the seventh.
That was it for Pavano, and in came the Canadian, Crain, a usually reliable reliever (1-1) to blow an improved start for the starter.
After an RBI single from Buck, Crain gave up only his second homer since May 18 as Encarnacion’s went deep with two on. Toronto now has 254 homers on the year, 47 ahead of the Boston Red Sox.
Coming in, Pavano had given up 12 runs in his last nine innings pitched (in two starts combined), and needed a quality start.
Twins starting pitchers as a whole had given up 10 runs five times in their last seven games, but even with Pavano cutting that down to one, the Jays’ pounced on the bullpen.
Toronto led six-to-two heading to the bottom of ninth, when reliever Jason Frasor gave up a two-out home run to Trevor Plouffe.
After two more hits the Twins had runners on the corners, so Toronto called in Kevin Gregg to retire Danny Valencia on a pop-up for his 37th save.
With the loss, Minnesota is now 1-7 in their last eight games, and seem to be limping into the playoffs. Canadian all-star outfielder Justin Morneau has said he will not be available for the first round whichbegins Wednesday.