TORONTO — Melvin Upton Jr. only saw third base coach Luis Rivera’s windmilling arms, telling him to sprint home.
He couldn’t hear the roaring Rogers Centre crowd, didn’t see the 47,485 fans on their feet, cheering him on as he rounded third.
"I was just running, man," said Upton, who wasn’t sure he would bother to watch the replay. "I don’t even know that I really heard them. I was just obviously focused on the game, running hard and scoring."
Kevin Pillar got on base in the inning with a double down the third-base line before Upton came to the plate with the Blue Jays trailing 7-6.
Upton’s hit bounced past Twins right-fielder Max Kepler, bringing Blue Jays fans to their feet as Pillar scored. Kepler and Minnesota centre-fielder Eddie Rosario couldn’t even pick up the ball before Upton crossed home, giving Toronto its first lead of the game.
"We fought hard all game," said Upton, who doesn’t remember ever hitting anything close to an inside-the-park home run. "I hit a tough pitch and it worked out for us."
Edwin Encarnacion had a two-run homer in the sixth and added another RBI with a single in the seventh as Toronto (73-56) mounted its comeback from a 5-0 deficit in the fourth inning. Michael Saunders had gotten the ball rolling an inning before with an RBI double. Josh Donaldson also added two RBIs with a single in the seventh.
"(Upton’s) one of those guys who can go first to third just about every time he hits it," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "If he hits it in the gap he could turn it in to three. He’s not that young guy anymore either but you’d never know that the way he still moves around and runs and looks and everything like that.
"That was a huge play. A huge game, falling behind like we did there to come back."
Marcus Stroman gave up five runs on nine hits and a walk over six innings while striking out five as the Blue Jays won back-to-back games. Bo Schultz, who had been called up from triple-A Buffalo earlier in the day, gave up two runs in an inning of relief.
"We’re confident, we’ve been the same way, to be honest with you, since spring training, since last year," said Stroman. "We had this same mentality, pretty much same core group of guys, we feel comfortable, we’re happy where we’re at, we’re just excited to get it going here."
Trevor Plouffe hit a home run as Minnesota (49-80) saw its losing skid stretch to nine games. Second baseman Brian Dozier had three hits, two RBIs and a run for the Twins.
Ervin Santana pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on five hits and five walks. Ryan Pressly (6-6) struggled in his inning of relief, giving up five hits and allowing Upton’s run. Taylor Rogers pitched a third of an inning.
Plouffe led off the fourth inning with a single, and was driven home by Miguel Sano’s single two batters later. Eduardo Escobar’s double to right field plated Eddie Rosario and advanced Sano to third. Stroman induced a groundout and a pop out before Dozier struck with a two-run double to make it 5-0 for the Twins.
Saunders replied with an RBI double in the bottom of the inning, driving Encarnacion home from first. Fans cheered as the burly Encarnacion bore down on home plate.
Encarnacion crushed the ball over the left-centre wall in the sixth, bringing home Donaldson to make it 5-3. Plouffe got two runs back for the Twins the following inning, hitting a two-run shot for a 7-3 lead.
Chants of M-V-P rained down as Donaldson came to the plate with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the seventh. He didn’t disappoint Toronto fans, driving in Upton and Devon Travis to make it 7-5.
Encarnacion saw 11 pitches from Pressly in the next at bat, eventually getting a base hit to cash in Jose Bautista from third and move Donaldson up two bases. The three-run inning cut Minnesota’s lead down and set up Upton’s heroics.
Osuna pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 29th save of the season.