Josh Donaldson and Kevin Pillar made it rain on a brisk Friday evening at Target Field, both launching solo homers into left field to lead the Blue Jays to a tight 4-3 victory over the Twins, and their first win over veteran starter Bartolo Colón in the process, on “Big Sexy” night in Minnesota.
Donaldson and Pillar’s homers were responsible for half of Toronto’s runs on the night, but it was catcher Russell Martin’s RBI single, deflected off the foot of reliever Ryan Pressly, that would make all the difference: Martin’s hit scoring the winning run for Toronto with two outs in the seventh.
Twins Strike First, Take Two-Run Lead Into Sixth
The home team would get things started after a pair of scoreless innings by loading the bases in the bottom of the third with no outs, but would only end up cashing in a single run: a sac fly for Joe Mauer scoring Chris Gimenez to open the scoring.
The Twins would double their advantage in the bottom of the fourth when Byron Buxton, who has already had tremendous amount of success against the Blue Jays this year, put together a great piece of baserunning, bunting a ground ball to third baseman Donaldson to lead off the inning before recording his 26th stolen base to get into scoring position. A couple batters later, a single into right field from Gimenez would be all that was required for the home team to extend their lead to 2-0, going into the fifth.
The Blue Jays, however, would get one of those runs back off a leadoff homer to start the fifth from Pillar, his 16th of the season, only to surrender it immediately in the bottom of the frame as Minnesota’s Brian Dozier went deep to record a leadoff homer of his own off veteran Toronto starter J.A. Happ.
Donaldson Sparks Jays Offence; Toronto Scores Three from 1-3 Down to Top Twins
Desperate to get the rally started, Donaldson’s moonshot to left centre field, his 26th of the season and first since September 3 against the Orioles, cut the Twins’ 3-1 lead in half. For someone who entered August with just 11 homers, this has been, without question, the best stretch of the season for the three-time All-Star, who also happened to spark something in the Torontonian offence.
The Jays would continue their assault in the top of the seventh when Martin—playing his second game back since returning from the disabled list on Wednesday—would take advantage of a leadoff walk of Pillar to score the centre fielder all the way from first with an RBI double, which also ended Colón’s night on the mound.
With the Blue Jays offence now surging, it was up to Donaldson a few batters later to score Martin with a clutch hit, but he soon found himself up against it with an 0-2 count. Nonetheless, it was the three-time former All-Star who would come through, delivering an infield single to drive in the go-ahead and ultimately decisive run.
Osuna Shuts Down Dangerous Twins Offence in Return to Lineup
After Happ got the first out of the seventh and relievers Dominic Leone and Ryan Tepera pitched 1 2/3 innings of no-hit ball, it was up to Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna to shut down the dangerous Twins offence, guarding a precious one-run lead for starter J.A. Happ.
In his first appearance since going back to Mexico for the birth of his daughter, Osuna showed shades of the closer that converted as many as 22 consecutive saves earlier in the season to work a perfect frame, retiring designated hitter Mitch Garver, Gimenez and pinch-hitter Kennys Vargas for his 36th save of the year, much to the delight of a boisterous pro-Toronto crowd at Target Field.
Always supportive of his team, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons wasn’t surprised to see Osuna bounce back despite not pitching for 10 days due to a sore neck before leaving for the baby.
“Roberto, if I know him the way I think I know him, he’s good at letting things go,” the longtime manager told reporters. “He understands the closer’s role. You’re either going to save it or you’re going to lose it, probably. That’s one of the things I think has separated him at a young age; there’s a lot of guys that can’t do that. He can do that but he was popping pretty good tonight. He’s had a big week.”