Blue Jays 9 Twins 3
TORONTO — With an uncanny combination of power and speed, the Toronto Blue Jays finished off a four-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins and are streaking into Yankee Stadium as the hottest team in baseball.
Five players drove in runs Thursday at Rogers Centre as the Blue Jays blew out the Twins 9-3 to extend their winning streak to five going into a crucial weekend series at the American League East-leading New York Yankees. Toronto has won eight of its past nine games and is now 4 1/2 games back of the division lead.
“You’ve got that feel every day when you come to the field, ’Who’s next?”’ winning pitcher Mark Buehrle said. “No matter if it’s a rookie pitching or a guy that’s been around for a while, you’ve got that feel of, ’Who’s butt are we going to kick today?”’
Edwin Encarnacion drove in four runs on two doubles and his 21st home run of the season. When Minnesota intentionally walked him in the fifth inning, catcher Dioner Navarro knocked in two more.
Seven batters either drove in or scored a run, more evidence that almost no holes exist in what has quickly become the most feared lineup around the league. Twins outfielder Torii Hunter thinks the Blue Jays can make a lot of opponents look bad.
“There aren’t too many teams going to beat that team over there,” Hunter said. “The way they hit the ball is just unbelievable. When they hit the ball, it sounds like car crashes. They’re one of the best teams in baseball, offensively.”
Even Toronto’s No. 9 hitter Ben Revere got into the action in the series finale, going 3 for 4 with three runs scored. The speedy left fielder advanced to third base on a bunt single and a throwing error and provided the kind of multidimensional threat that’s invaluable in a playoff race.
The Blue Jays were also lights out defensively. Kevin Pillar made a highlight-reel, full-extension diving catch in centre field in the eighth inning that was worthy of a standing ovation from the crowd of 34,847 and his teammates in the home dugout.
“That was one of those times where I kind of felt like I had a little bit of intuition with the guy on the mound, with the hitter, I kind of felt like I knew where the ball was going to go before it did,” Pillar said. “I just had a good jump, and I’m out there to win games in whatever way possible.”
On the mound, Buehrle allowed three runs on five hits in seven innings, even though he called it a “bad day.” Pitching with so much run support, Buehrle didn’t have to worry about giving up a two-run home run to Trevor Plouffe or a solo shot to Aaron Hicks.
Buehrle was never in real trouble, and neither were the Blue Jays (58-52), who further solidified their hold on an AL wild-card spot while dealing another blow to the free-falling Twins (53-53). Minnesota held that wild-card spot when the series started Monday.
“We got demolished these four games,” Hunter said. “We got crushed.”
The high-scoring Blue Jays took their offence to another level on Wednesday and Thursday, scoring back-to-back nine-run games for the first time all season.
Routing the Twins, though, was just a warm-up act for the Blue Jays, who have their sights set on first place in the AL East.
That quest takes centre stage beginning Friday in the Bronx.
Manager John Gibbons hopes his team’s momentum carries into Yankee Stadium.
“It’s always been a tough place for us to play,” Gibbons said. “They’re the front-runners in the division. They’re having a hell of a year, too. … We’ve got to pitch well, give our offence a chance and play good defence.”
Basically, Toronto needs to keep doing what they’ve been doing since the all-star break. Starting pitchers have allowed three or fewer runs in 11 straight games, and in that time the Jays have scored 49 runs.
“We are very confident, no doubt about that,” Gibbons said. “We’re feeling really good right now, we continue to swing the bats well, we’ve done that all year. … We’re playing good right now.”
Six of the Blue Jays’ next nine games and 13 of their final 52 games are against New York, which beat the Boston Red Sox Thursday night.
“We’ve got a big series coming up, that’s not a secret, I don’t think it makes or breaks our season,” Buehrle said. “We’ve got a lot of games left, but it is a big series at this time and we’d like to go in there and try to win the series.”
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