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MLB: Blue Jays’ Stroman shuts down sinking Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Like a group of chemists, the Toronto Blue Jays found just the right mixture of good hitting, good pitching and bad blood on Sunday. Early offense and a pitching gem by Marcus Stroman lifted the Blue Jays to a 3-1 win over theMinne...

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Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, left, celebrates with third baseman Josh Donaldson after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Brad Rempel | USA Today Sports.

MINNEAPOLIS - Like a group of chemists, the Toronto Blue Jays found just the right mixture of good hitting, good pitching and bad blood on Sunday.

Early offense and a pitching gem by Marcus Stroman lifted the Blue Jays to a 3-1 win over theMinnesota Twins, as Toronto took three of the series’ four games.
Stroman (5-1) allowed just three hits over 7 2/3 innings, while back-to-back home runs by Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson to start the game gave Toronto (22-24) all the runs it would need.
“I felt great today. I felt like I was commanding all day and I was able to get that depth early on,” said Stroman, who had given up a season-worst 13 hits in his previous start. “I was able to locate it all day long.”
Minnesota got a quality start, but not a win, from righty Phil Hughes (1-7), who settled down after the early trouble to keep Toronto off the board for the next five innings. It was the sixth loss in the past seven games for the Twins (11-32).
“We got off to a quick start, and I thought it was going to be a day where we would put up a lot of runs,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “Then Hughes settled in. We did a nice job and the bullpen held them in check. That’s what good pitching can do for you, give you a chance to win every night.”
Stung by a late-inning loss a day earlier, the Blue Jays wasted little time in announcing their presence on Sunday.
Bautista planted the fourth pitch of the game in a flower pot just over the left-field wall. It was Bautista’s first leadoff homer since 2009. Three pitches later, the Toronto lead doubled as Donaldson sent a Hughes offering 425 feet to the grassy berm in center field. It was the first time in a decade that the Blue Jays had led off a game with back-to-back homers.
Toronto led 3-0 after half an inning when Michael Saunders walked and was doubled home by Troy Tulowitzki.
Minnesota got on the scoreboard in the second inning courtesy of Robbie Grossman’s walk, Oswaldo Arcia’s double and Kurt Suzuki’s RBI ground-out that brought Grossman home, cutting the Toronto lead to 3-1.
Tempers flared in the fifth, and Gibbons was ejected after an argument with crew chief Joe West. The trouble started on Saturday when Donaldson was ejected in the first inning for comments he directed at the Twins’ dugout.
Donaldson stared down the Twins’ bench after his first-inning home run on Sunday, and protested when Hughes threw a pitch behind him to start the fifth, bringing Gibbons out of the dugout. It was the fourth time this season that Gibbons has been tossed.
“I stayed away from him his first at-bat and we all saw what happened there,” Hughes said. “Second at-bat I went in twice, I believe, and ended up having pretty good success that way. I tried to go in twice and missed. That’s just part of it. I don’t know what he was all upset about, but you try to go in for effect and it ended up working out. The next pitch I threw him a cutter and he popped it up.”
Stroman hit Suzuki with a pitch in the bottom of the fifth, but it did not produce further fireworks.
“I’m here to play baseball. I’m not out here to do that kind of fighting, and all that stuff,” said Suzuki, who got his 1,000th career hit in the game. “I’m not one of those guys that puffs out their chest and act like they can fight the whole team. I try to calm down and get back to playing baseball.”
Then Minnesota missed a chance to bring Suzuki in when Toronto center fielder Kevin Pillar made an impressive diving catch of Brian Dozier’s long fly ball to the gap in left-center.
“I’ll get him a pair of Jordans or something,” Stroman joked. “He’s always saving (those) and helping all of us out. We’re just grateful to have him out there. Any ball that’s remotely close to him, he comes down with.”
The Twins began the eighth with back-to-back singles, but Dozier’s bouncer to third started a double play and the Blue Jays emerged with their two-run advantage intact.
“We’re trying some different things to get back in the game, either tie or go ahead,” Twinsmanager Paul Molitor said. “Brian got a count in his favor and he rolled over a sinker, and they got the double play. Then they brought in their closer, one pitch and they were out of the inning.”
Roberto Osuna came on in relief of Stroman in the eighth to get the final four outs for the Blue Jays, earning his ninth save.
NOTES: Brad Berry, coach of the national champion men’s hockey team from the University of North Dakota, threw out the first pitch prior to Sunday’s game flanked by a dozen of his players. The Fighting Hawks beat Quinnipiac last month in Tampa for the school’s eighth national hockey title. ... The Twins announced on Sunday that LHP Glen Perkins, the closer, has suffered a setback in his efforts to return from a left shoulder strain. Perkins, who will take a week off from throwing, was placed on the disabled list on April 13. ... Saturday’s loss to theTwins was the 13th loss by a Blue Jays reliever this season, which is most in the American League. Only Cincinnati relievers have lost more games, with 14. ... Minnesota’s seven-game home stand continues on Monday evening when the Twins host the Kansas City Royals. Toronto, currently in the midst of a seven-game road swing, travels to New York for an off-day and will face the Yankees on Tuesday night.

Twins beat Jays with 5-spot in eighth

MINNEAPOLIS - Few things seemed as probable as the eighth-inning rally staged by the Minnesota Twins on Saturday afternoon.

Eduardo Nunez’s three-run home run capped a five-run bottom of the eighth as the Twinsrallied for a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
For seven innings, J.A. Happ mowed through the Twins lineup, allowing just one hit and three baserunners.
That all changed in the eighth inning for the team with baseball’s worst record at 11-31.
Minnesota seemed destined to go down meekly again until Robbie Grossman started the eighth with a single and Darin Mastroianni walked to put two on with nobody out. Two batters later, Danny Santana slapped a two-run double down the right-field line to tie the game at 2-2 and end Happ’s afternoon.
Gavin Floyd entered, hit Brian Dozier with a pitch before serving up the fatal blow, a homer by Nunez that traveled 424 feet over the left-field fence.
“It was huge,” Nunez said. “We’re struggling. We know that. It’s not a secret. But we’re pushing. We have a lot of guys struggling in the lineup at the same time and it’s tough. But hopefully it all starts today.”
Nunez now has one up on his old New York Yankees teammate Russell Martin, who was behind the plate for the Blue Jays as Nunez stepped into the batter’s box.
“Martin played with me on the Yankees and he knows I don’t like pitches in and was looking for a double play,” Nunez said. “I was looking for a sinker because I knew the situation.
“After the second pitch, he saw me check-swing and thought maybe I wasn’t ready, but that was because I was looking for a slider. Maybe he thought I wasn’t ready for that pitch but I was prepared for it.”
Fernando Abad (1-1) picked up the win, getting a double play to end the eighth inning before the rally. Kevin Jepsen allowed a solo homer in the ninth to Michael Saunders but retired the side for his third save.
“There hasn’t been a lot, we all know that,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We talked yesterday about these guys trying to keep their hunger and find a way to come out here and work every day and try to stay positive. It’s challenging when you go through what we’ve been through.”
Pat Dean, making his first big league start in his third appearance, did not figure into the final decision. He allowed two runs and three hits and three walks while striking out five over six innings.
“The big thing was just staying aggressive,” Dean said. “I knew these guys would be out there swinging and swinging hard. They’ve been doing that all series so I wanted to make sure I was aggressive as well.”
The only mistake Dean made was a hanging slider to Jose Bautista in the top of the third inning with a runner aboard. Bautista hammered it an estimated 392 feet into the second deck in left for his ninth homer of the season, second in as many days and 13th in 20 games since Target Field opened in 2010.
Happ (5-2) was charged with the loss despite the quality start, allowing three runs on three hits and three walks over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out five.
The veteran southpaw retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced and didn’t give up a hit until a leadoff double by Nunez in the fourth inning.
Nunez was erased moments later when Miguel Sano flew out to center and Kevin Pillar threw out Nunez trying to advance after tagging up.
“He couldn’t have pitched any better,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “But then the leadoff hit and the walk, walks always, in tight games, they’re guaranteed to burn you, it’s like the baseball gods punishing you.”
It was a solid bounce back outing for Happ, who allowed eight earned runs in two innings to the Tampa Bay Rays Monday.
“Other than that eighth inning, I felt really good about it,” Happ said. “Even with that eighth inning, that’s going to happen. The game was close and it got away from us there, but we’ll try and come back, win the series tomorrow and go from there.
Toronto (21-24) did a bulk of its work without Josh Donaldson, who was ejected moments into the game after an argument with home plate umpire Toby Basner.
In the top of the first inning, Donaldson grounded out to shortstop and engaged Basner on his way back to the dugout. It was Donaldson’s second ejection of the season and ninth of the year by Toronto, the most in the majors.
NOTES: Blue Jays 2B Devon Travis went 0-for-5 in the second game of a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Buffalo on Friday. Travis, who has missed the entire campaign because of offseason shoulder surgery, was expected to return perhaps as early as this weekend but is now more likely to be closer to June 1. ... Blue Jays LHP Aaron Loup will move his rehab assignment from Class-A Dunedin to Buffalo on Saturday. Loup pitched in three games with Dunedin rehabbing a left flexor strain sustained in early March. ... Twins SS Eduardo Escobar had one hit in his first rehab game with Class-A Fort Myers on Friday. Escobar, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 7 with a groin strain, could return to the Twins as soon as Monday. ... Twins RHP Kyle Gibson will make his first rehab start on Sunday for Fort Myers. Gibson was placed on the disabled list April 27 with a right shoulder strain. He will likely need two or three starts in the minors before re-joining the big league club.

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