Blue Jays Takeaways: Osuna perfect in return to lineup

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roberto Osuna. (Jim Mone/AP)

The Blue Jays evened up their series in Minnesota, coming back late to beat the Twins, current holders of the American League’s second wild card spot. In doing so, they also evened up their record in one-run games this season – they’re now 25-25.

Here are some things that stood out to me about the win on the Minneapolis side of the Twin Cities:

Josh Donaldson had a three-hit night, finishing a triple shy of the cycle, and two of his hits drove in big Blue Jays runs.

Donaldson homered leading off the sixth inning, a moonshot off Bartolo Colon that cut the Twins’ 3-1 lead in half. It was his 26th big fly of the season, not bad for someone who came into the month of August having hit only 11 homers.

Donaldson was back at the plate an inning later, with runners on the corners and two out in a tie game, facing fireballer Ryan Pressly. With the count 0-2, the former MVP poked a ground ball back towards the mound and off Pressly’s left foot, caroming to shortstop where Jorge Polanco had no play. Russell Martin scored what wound up being the winning run as Dominic Leone, Ryan Tepera and Roberto Osuna were perfect behind J.A. Happ.

In his first appearance since going home for the birth of his daughter, the Blue Jays’ beleaguered closer looked very much like his old self. Attacking with a fastball that touched 97 miles per hour, the 22 year-old worked a perfect frame. He got Eddie Rosario on a ground ball and pinch-hitter Robbie Grossman on a sinking liner to centre (nice sliding catch by Kevin Pillar) before coming back from a 3-1 count to strike out another pinch-hitter, Kennys Vargas, to end the game.

It was Osuna’s first sortie since blowing back to back saves in Baltimore and Boston September 3rd and 5th – he’d been dealing with a sore neck before leaving for the baby – and it felt like the first time in a long time that we’d seen him look like the old, dominant self that spoiled us with 22 consecutive saves converted in the early part of the season. However, a quick check back into the data shows us that in the outing before those two early-September blown saves, Osuna came in in the eighth inning and worked a perfect four-up, four-down non-traditional inning-and-a-third save in Baltimore. In that game, he came on with two on and two out and the Blue Jays up by three.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

With one game under his belt in his return from an oblique injury, Russell Martin made his presence felt Friday night, slugging two doubles and scoring the winning run.

Martin was originally in the starting line-up for Thursday night’s series opener but was a late scratch. He seemed none the worse for wear, though, taking Bartolo Colon off the wall in right-centre in the fifth inning for his first hit since his return, and smacking another two-bagger in the seventh.

That second double was a line shot to left field that got all the way to the wall and allowed Pillar to score the tying run from first base.

Martin went to third on Ryan Goins’ bunt single and, two outs later, scored the eventual winning run on Donaldson’s single off the pitcher’s foot.

With Jose Bautista’s struggles continuing, teams are starting to find it difficult to rationalize pitching to Justin Smoak in big situations.

Smoak walked three times in front of Bautista Friday night – once intentionally – and never got past first base as Bautista struggled through an 0-for-5 night in the win over the Twins.

It’s been a saddening limp to the finish for one of the Blue Jays’ all-time greats, who is hitting just .204/.302/.379 in what is almost assuredly his final season with the team for which he has provided so many great moments.

With the Jays out of the race, there’s no reason not to run Bautista out there every day the rest of the way, hoping that he’s got a couple big weeks in him so that he can finish the season with the flourish his career most certainly deserves.

The unfortunate by-product of that, though, is that it means he almost definitely will set the Blue Jays’ single-season strikeout record. He whiffed once on Friday night, his 156th strikeout of the season. The club record is 159, shared by Jose Canseco and Kelly Johnson.

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