MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The Toronto Blue Jays secured their fourth straight series win by beating up on the Minnesota Twins in a game that featured a few tense moments despite the one-sided result.
Neil Wagner stranded a couple of J.A. Happ walks with a big strikeout of Chris Colabello to stop the Twins from getting back in a game they trailed by four, Sergio Santos came on with the bases loaded and two out in the seventh to strike out clean-up man Josh Willingham, keeping the lead at six, and Steve Delabar extricated his club from a bases loaded, nobody out jam in the eighth, leaving all the runners where he found them.
Here are three other things that stood out to me about the Blue Jays’ Saturday night victory:
GET ‘EM EARLY
For the third straight game, the Blue Jays jumped out to a big early lead. Wednesday afternoon, they stopped scoring after a three-spot in the first and it cost them a game. Friday night they had six after the third, but didn’t get another and turned a potential laugher into a nailbiter.
Saturday night, they learned their lesson.
The Blue Jays murdalized Twins starter Kevin Correia in the first inning, with each of the first seven hitters save Edwin Encarnacion (who walked) absolutely smoking the ball leading to a five-run frame. But over the next five innings, every Blue Jay not named Brett Lawrie was retired — Lawrie’s two singles being the team’s entire offence.
Despite the long opportunity, the Twins couldn’t worm their way back into the game, scoring only once off a very efficient and effective Happ, and the Blue Jays finally got some more runs across the plate, building on the lead and preventing any late-game white-knucklage.
They got to former teammate Josh Roenicke in the seventh for three straight hits, the last of which was a two-run single by Munenori Kawasaki, the first time since Labour Day they’d scored after the third inning, and the rout was on.
Adam Lind’s season has had some extreme ups and downs to it, and the roller coaster ride continues, with the cars on their way up the loop-de-loop at the moment, and not just because of his book-end three-run homers Saturday night.
Lind hit just .220 over the season’s first month, albeit with a .394 on-base percentage, then caught fire and hit .386/.422/.675 over the next month. He hit his peak for the season as the Blue Jays wrapped up a sweep of the Rangers in Texas early in their 11-game win streak. Lind’s 3-for-5 performance on June 16 raised his line to .350/.417/.561 — season highs in all three slash-line categories.
The roller coaster started to head downhill with his 0-for-3 the next day against the Rockies, sparking a two-month run over which Lind hit just .193/.265/.357.
But all was not lost, and Lind has spent the last month pulling his numbers back up.
His first three-run homer gave the Blue Jays the lead to stay, and his second had him wind up 2-for-5 on the evening, robbed of a hit in his penultimate trip by a ridiculous play by Roenicke — the pitcher had his back to the plate on his follow-through, stuck his glove down between his legs and somehow snared Lind’s grounder up the middle.
Since Aug. 15, Lind has hit .333/.394/.617 as he tries to finish strong and give the Blue Jays a tough decision on whether to pick up his $7-million option for next season.
AT LEAST HE’S BACK
That’s the takeaway from Kyle Drabek’s first big-league outing since June 13, 2012, when he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery for a second time in his brief career.
Drabek took the mound to start the bottom of the eighth with the Blue Jays comfortably ahead by seven, faced four hitters and didn’t get anybody out.
Trevor Plouffe hit a full-count pitch to right for a single, and Oswaldo Arcia followed with a soft liner into centre for another base hit. Drabek then missed with his next four pitches, walking Colabello, and then broke Josmil Pinto’s bat, but the ball snuck through the 5-6 hole and into left for a RBI single.
Drabek left the game at that point, having thrown only seven of his 19 pitches for strikes — Delabar bailed him out with an outstanding relief job, striking out Pedro Florimon and Alex Presley, then popping up pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit to escape further damage.
Drabek will have to sit with an ERA of infinity for a while (one run allowed, no outs recorded), and he and everyone else would have loved to have seen a much better outing, but the key more than anything — in what’s been a season long since gone by the wayside for the Blue Jays — is that they got Drabek healthy and back on a big-league mound.
It’s noteworthy that Drabek had never had the level of control problems coming up that he had with the Blue Jays the last two seasons and that such problems have been sometimes shown to be a precursor to an elbow ligament going blooey. In his minor league rehab stint, Drabek walked just six in 43 innings of work, against 35 strikeouts.
One hopes the first-night jitters were just that, and that we get a better picture of the real Drabek his next time out.