By Rhett Bollinger and Gregor Chisholm
MINNEAPOLIS -- Torii Hunter connected on a go-ahead two-run double in the seventh inning to help lead the Twins to a 6-5 win over the Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon at Target Field.
With the win, the Twins took the three-game set and have now won eight of their last nine series. They went 20-7 in May to mark the first time they won 20 games in any month since going 22-6 in June of 1991. They also moved atop the American League Central at 30-19, and have the best record in the AL by percentage points over the Astros.
"It's May 31 and I think we're going to change tomorrow to May 32 and see what happens," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "But we're staying in the moment. I'm not going to get too far ahead of myself. But it's a really good month. If you win 20 games, you're doing good things."
Minnesota won despite the fact right-hander Ricky Nolasco left his start after just one-plus inning because of a sore right ankle. Right-handers J.R. Graham and Tim Stauffer pitched in long relief, combining to give up three runs (two earned) over 5 1/3 innings. Stauffer served up a go-ahead solo shot to Josh Donaldson in the seventh, but the Twins were able to come back from the one-run deficit.
"We got exposed today," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons admitted after the game. "That's been happening a bit lately. [Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison] was cruising, he started out a little bit slow, kicked it into gear and then all of a sudden, wham, bam, thank you ma'am. Not really sure what happened. We'll hop on that plane and move to [Washington] D.C."
Hutchison didn't factor into the decision, as he gave up four runs over 5 1/3 innings, including a game-tying two-run homer to Trevor Plouffe in the sixth. Right-handed reliever Roberto Osuna gave up the go-ahead double to Hunter with one out in the seventh.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Captain Clutch: Donaldson almost always finds a way to get it done when the game is on the line. Last week it was a pair of ninth-inning homers against the White Sox, and this time he hit a solo homer in the seventh to put Toronto in front 5-4. Six of Donaldson's 15 homers this year have come in the seventh inning or later. That's been the trend throughout his career as well with 27 of his 78 homers coming in the seventh inning or later. More >
Nolasco leaves with ankle injury: While facing Russell Martin to lead off the second inning, Nolasco was checked on by Molitor and trainer Tony Leo. Nolasco ended up staying in the game, but was removed after giving up back-to-back singles to Martin and Chris Colabello. Graham came in and later allowed two runs on a two-out bloop single from Jose Reyes, but went on to give up just one unearned run over three innings.
"It was just an untypical game having to deal with Ricky's injury early on, so we had to piece together the rest with our bullpen," Molitor said. "It was a little bit challenging." More >
Plouffe, there it is: After Joe Mauer brought home a run with an RBI single to left in the sixth inning, Plouffe smacked a two-run blast to left to tie the game at 4. The homer knocked Hutchison from the game.
Outfield woes continue: Toronto's outfield defense has been an issue all season and it cost the club again on Sunday afternoon. With two runners on and one out in the seventh, Hunter hit a fly ball to left field. Colabello, whose error led to the Twins' first run, got a bad break and didn't take a direct line in his approach and the end result was the ball dropping in for a two-run double.
"It's frustrating but the season is still too early. There's still a lot of baseball left. We're still confident, we know we lost a tough game today, but tomorrow we got another game. We just need to continue to play hard every day. Stuff is going to change around, this is going to change for sure." -- Reyes, on the Blue Jays dropping to 3-12 in one-run games
"We want to prove the critics wrong. That's always fun. So they can swallow their words and choke on them." -- Hunter, on the Twins' surprising start to the season
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Donaldson's homer in the seventh inning extended his hitting streak vs. the Twins to 20 games. That's the second longest active streak in the Major Leagues. Reyes owns the top spot with a 21-game hitting streak against the Tigers.
Reyes connected on a ball into the left-center-field gap to open the seventh inning, and tried to stretch his hit to a double, but was ruled out at second base by second-base umpire Chris Guccione. The Blue Jays challenged the call, but it was ruled to stand.
The Blue Jays asked for another call to be reviewed in the top of the eighth inning. Pinch runner Munenori Kawasaki attempted a steal of second base but was called out by Guccione. Gibbons asked for a review and crew chief Eric Cooper granted his request. The call was confirmed after a review.
Blue Jays: The Blue Jays will open a three-game Interleague series against the Nationals when R.A. Dickey takes the mound on Monday night at 7:05 p.m. ET at Nationals Park. Dickey has made 15 appearances against Washington during his career and has a 4-6 record with a 3.73 ERA.
Twins: The Twins head to Boston for a four-game set that starts Monday night at 6:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Mike Pelfrey makes the start in the series opener and limited the Red Sox to just one run over seven innings on Tuesday.