By Gregor Chisholm and Rhett Bollinger
TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki homered while right-hander Marco Estrada tossed 6 2/3 quality innings in the Blue Jays' 3-1 victory over the Twins on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre. With the win, Toronto moved one game ahead of Minnesota in the standings for the second American League Wild Card.
Right-hander Phil Hughes took the loss for Minnesota after allowing three runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings. He surrendered both home runs and was pulled after Dioner Navarro hit an RBI double in the sixth. It was the second consecutive start that Hughes wasn't able to pitch at least six innings.
Estrada was nearly flawless for Toronto. He retired the first nine batters he faced before momentarily losing command of the strike zone in the fourth. A pair of walks in that inning led to one run, but Estrada limited the damage and put down 10 batters in a row before a double by Eddie Rosario led to his departure in the seventh.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Donaldson does it again: Donaldson made it back-to-back games with a homer when he hit a solo shot in the top of the first inning. According to Statcast™, Donaldson's blast was projected to travel 437 feet and left his bat at 108 mph. Toronto's third baseman has been on fire lately with six homers, seven doubles and 16 RBIs over his last 14 games. Of Donaldson's 28 home runs, 18 have either tied the game or given the Blue Jays a lead.
"He's had a very good year. You're talking about an MVP-caliber year. We're a few months to go and I think he can only add to that," acting Blue Jays manager DeMarlo Hale said. More >
Hunter gets Twins on the board: The Twins didn't have many chances against Estrada, but loaded the bases with one out in the fourth. Hunter lifted a fly ball to the warning track in right field to bring home a run, but Eddie Rosario struck out looking to end the inning. Before Hunter's sacrifice fly, the Twins were 0-for-15 with no RBIs with the bases loaded since July 17.
"That was a breakthrough," Twins manager Paul Molitor said with a laugh. "It's that old adage where you think one and maybe you'll get more. He stayed on a pitch away and it's usually the best way to elevate the ball, and if he hits it squarely, maybe he does a little bit more damage. But at least we got the one. It was good to see that happen because we haven't done that of late, but we couldn't get a hit like that." More >
Tulo time: Tulowitzki continues to impress since joining the Blue Jays in last week's blockbuster deal with Colorado. In the third inning, he sent a 2-1 offering from Hughes into the second deck beyond the left-field wall. It was Tulowitzki's second home run as a Blue Jay and his 14th of the season. According to Statcast™, Tulowitzki's homer was projected to travel 450 feet and it left his bat at 111 mph.
"Winning games is fun. That makes [being here] comfortable, that makes it fun, and it's really what you come from the ballpark for," Tulowitzki said.
O'Rourke gets out of jam: After Hughes departed following a two-out RBI double from Navarro in the sixth, lefty Ryan O'Rourke gave up a single to Ryan Goins, who went to second on the throw home. The Twins elected to intentionally walk Kevin Pillar to load the bases, and O'Rourke was able to get Ben Revere to fly out to right to end the inning.
"We're still in a good position. There's a lot of baseball left. The thing we've done great all year is not to worry about what happened the day before. So we're not going to let that get to us. We're going to keep battling because that's what it's going to take come late September to still be in this thing. To continue to play meaningful games you have to put yesterday behind you." -- Trevor Plouffe, on the Twins being out of playoff position for the first time since May 3
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Blue Jays starters have allowed three earned runs or fewer in nine straight games. They have a 2.53 ERA over that same span, and the pitching staff entered play on Tuesday with a 2.77 ERA since the All-Star break, which was tops in the American League.
Hale lost his challenge in the bottom of the seventh inning. Tulowitzki hit a sharp line drive down the left-field line that bounced near the chalk but was called foul by third-base umpire Tim Timmons. Following a brief delay, the call stood, which meant there wasn't conclusive video evidence to either overturn or confirm the call. Hale was Toronto's acting manager on Tuesday because John Gibbons was serving a one-game suspension.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Right-hander Tyler Duffey is set to make his Major League debut in a start for the Twins on Wednesday at 6:07 pm. CT. Duffey posted a 2.66 ERA with 117 strikeouts and 30 walks in 132 innings between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester. He's also allowed just one homer all year in the Minors.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Drew Hutchison will take the mound when the Blue Jays and Twins continue their four-game series on Wednesday at 7:07 p.m. ET. Hutchison has been much better at home this year with a 2.47 ERA compared to a 9.00 ERA on the road.