MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Josh Donaldson homered and drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning with an infield single that ricocheted off the mound, sending the Toronto Blue Jays to a 4-3 victory on Friday night over the Minnesota Twins to slow their push toward the postseason.
The Twins had a three-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels for the second AL wild card going into the night, with the Seattle Mariners 3 1/2 games back. The New York Yankees hold the first wild card with a four-game edge on the Twins.
Twins starter Bartolo Colon (4-5 in the AL, 6-13 overall) did his best to get the Blue Jays to hit catchable balls, but the 44-year-old faltered after four scoreless innings. Kevin Pillar homered in fifth. Then Donaldson went deep in the sixth.
Pillar walked to lead off the seventh, and an RBI double by Russell Martin prompted manager Paul Molitor to pull Colon for reliever Ryan Pressly. Donaldson’s two-out, two-strike smash landed in front of Pressly’s foot before pin-balling toward shortstop Jorge Polanco, who had no play.
Colon got RBIs from Joe Mauer and Chris Gimenez and a homer from Brian Dozier, but it wasn’t enough on “Big Sexy Night.” The Twins had souvenir T-shirts for fans who bought a special ticket package in honor of the burly right-hander, who joined the Twins two months ago and has more than held his own despite his decreased velocity.
The big-swinging Blue Jays consistently made solid contact, though, with 12 out of 18 flyball outs.
J.A. Happ (9-10) also went into the seventh inning, with slightly better results. He struck out five and won his third straight start. Roberto Osuna pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 36th save in 46 opportunities, his first appearance in 10 days after going on paternity leave this week, as the hundreds of boisterous Blue Jays fans from the central Canadian provinces walked out happy despite their team being buried in the standings this season.
After the Twins won in the 10th inning on Thursday night with a walk-off home run by Byron Buxton, there was no end-of-game drama this time.
Buxton had two hits, including a bunt single in the fourth inning. He then stole second base and scored on Gimenez’s two-out single. With 21 consecutive successful steals, Buxton’s streak is tied with Zoilo Versalles for the third-longest in Twins history. Chuck Knoblauch and Matt Lawton each swiped 22 in a row.
TORMENTING THE TWINS
In 38 career games against the Twins, Donaldson is batting .375 with 16 doubles, 15 homers and 41 RBIs. Donaldson’s on-base-plus-slugging percentage, at 1.239 entering the night, is the highest by any opposing player in Twins history including the franchise’s previous incarnation as the Washington Senators.
Blue Jays: Martin was back in the lineup as the catcher, after a day off out of precaution for his previously strained left oblique muscle.
Twins: RHP Jose Berrios, a noted fitness fanatic, has been encouraged by the team to shorten his bullpen session and back off his work a bit between starts. Berrios has pitched 175 2/3 innings this season, including 136 for the Twins. “I think it’s more general fatigue than it is arm,” Molitor said.
Blue Jays: LHP Marco Estrada (8-8, 4.96 ERA) takes the mound on Saturday night. He’s 4-1 in his last 10 starts, with three runs or less allowed in eight turns.
Twins: LHP Adalberto Mejia (4-5, 4.47 ERA) returns to the rotation to pitch the third game of the series. The rookie missed more than a month with an upper arm strain, with his last start coming on Aug. 8.
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