MINNEAPOLIS — The Toronto Blue Jays were getting mowed down by Phil Hughes through the first five innings on a chilly night at Target Field, but the big swingers never panicked.
The Jays have a long history of beating up on the former Yankees right-hander, so they knew it was only a matter of time before they got him in his new home in Minnesota.
Jose Bautista had three hits and an RBI, and Brett Lawrie hit a grand slam in the ninth inning to help the Blue Jays beat the Twins 9-3 on Tuesday night.
Edwin Encarnacion had two hits and an RBI, and Aaron Loup (1-0) won in relief of starter Brandon Morrow, who lasted 3 2-3 innings in 35-degree weather. The Blue Jays led 5-2 going into the ninth before Lawrie’s towering drive off Jared Burton put it away.
“I think it just took a little bit of getting used to,” said Lawrie, who drove in five runs. “We didn’t hit (batting practice) today. We just rolled into town, so we kind of just hit in the cages and rolled right out into the game. So it just took a little bit to adjust once we got in the box. Once we got a few hits, it just started snowballing.”
Chris Colabello had three hits and an RBI, and Trevor Plouffe hit a solo home run for the Twins. But Hughes (0-1) watched an impressive start go to waste in Toronto’s five-run sixth inning.
“He was cruising before that,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I thought the ball was coming out of his hand really good. All of a sudden I think it was three or four hits in a row and I don’t know what happened. He just couldn’t get a ball where he wanted to and they put some really nice swings on the ball.”
Hughes gave up four runs and eight hits with seven strikeouts in five-plus innings, snapping Minnesota’s three-game winning streak.
Munenori Kawasaki had two hits, including a double, after being called up from Triple-A Buffalo to help replace Maicer Izturis, who is out for the season with torn ligaments in his left knee. Designated hitter Adam Lind, who had a walk, a single and scored a run, left in the seventh inning with tightness in his lower back.
The Blue Jays have historically hit the ball very well at pitcher-friendly Target Field and they were going against one of their favourite pitchers in Hughes, who faced them many times over the years with the New York Yankees. Toronto hit 15 home runs off Hughes in 116 2-3 innings while he was in pinstripes.
Hughes kept the ball in the ballpark and kept the Blue Jays off balance through five. He recorded all seven of his strikeouts and needed just 74 pitches to get to the sixth.
Then it all came apart. Hughes gave up four quick hits to start the inning, including RBI singles by Bautista and Encarnacion to get chased with two on and nobody out. Michael Tonkin gave up a single to load the bases, and a throwing error from catcher Kurt Suzuki later in the inning allowed Dioner Navarro to score for a 5-2 lead.
The big inning helped Toronto overcome a rough start from Morrow, who threw 98 pitches and couldn’t get out of the fourth. Morrow gave up two runs and four hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
“We’ve got a good hitting team,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “I figured that was not going to last very long. Hughes was tough on us early but we had that one big inning where we broke it open.”
Bautista played centre field because Colby Rasmus needed an extra day to rest his ailing hamstring. It was the slugger’s first start there since 2009.