Upton Jr.'s sensational sprint caps Blue Jays' win
By John Lott and Alykhan Ravjiani
TORONTO -- Melvin Upton Jr. served what looked like a soft single into right field, but it took him on a non-stop trip around the bases that lifted the Toronto Blue Jays to an 8-7 comeback win over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
The win leaves the Blue Jays atop the American League East by a game over the Red Sox, after Boston defeated Kansas City later in the evening, and three games ahead of the Orioles, after Baltimore's second consecutive loss to the Yankees.
With the Blue Jays down, 7-6, and Kevin Pillar aboard in the eighth inning, Upton hit a sinking liner that right-fielder Max Kepler missed on a dive. Kepler chased it almost to the warning track, where he accidentally kicked it away from center fielder Eddie Rosario as Upton circled the bases and scored standing up on what was ruled a triple and error.
"I saw [Kepler] dive initially and kind of knew it would be a triple once it got by him," Upton said. "But rounding second base, I saw [third-base coach] Luis [Rivera] keep waving me, and I just kept going."
"I was trying to adjust to everything around me," Kepler said. "I wouldn't say it was Eddie. I slipped. I made a mistake. I made two mistakes. I made three mistakes. I take the blame."
Down 5-0 after Minnesota's four-run fourth, Toronto scored twice in the sixth on Edwin Encarnacion's homer and three times in the seventh to draw within a run.
Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman gave up five runs in six innings, and Twins starter Ervin Santana didn't fare any better. He took a 5-1 lead into the seventh, but exited with two outs and was charged with six runs.
"[The Blue Jays are] a very aggressive team, and they don't swing at bad pitches," Santana said. "It was like I had to throw it closer to the plate to make them swing, or they were a tough out. They were close pitches. They know when to swing and when not to swing."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Big things happening Upton here: The Blue Jays completed the comeback in the bottom of the eighth inning when Pillar hit a one-out double, and Upton Jr. followed with his game-winning hit. More >
"[Upton Jr. is] one of those guys that can go first to third just about every time he gets it, and if he hits it in the gap, it could turn into three," manager John Gibbons said. "He's not that young a guy any more, either [at 32], but you would never know it."
Dozier's day:Brian Dozier provided the big blow in the Twins' four-run fourth inning, delivering a two-out, two-run double to give Minnesota a 5-0 lead. The hit gave Dozier 78 RBIs on the season, setting a new career high for the veteran second baseman. Dozier finished his afternoon 3-for-5, adding two singles, a run and a stolen base.
Parade of the parrot: Encarnacion cut the Twins' lead to 5-3 in the sixth when he lined his 36th home run into the left-field seats with a runner aboard. With a run-scoring single in the seventh, he increased his league-leading RBI total to 105.
Plouffe there it is:Trevor Plouffe launched his second home run in as many days in the top of the seventh inning, sending a 96-mph fastball from Bo Schultz over the right-field wall. According to Statcast™, Plouffe's ninth home run of the season -- a two-run shot -- traveled a projected 345 feet and left the bat at 100 mph.
"[Plouffe is] making progress," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's been a long layoff, and he's had to deal with a lot of stuff this year. But he's just trying to go out there and play and finish as strong as he can."
"He's got to pack up all his soccer balls." -- Gibbons, on why newly acquired catcher Dioner Navarro won't report to the team until Monday. Navarro and fellow catcher Russell Martin frequently organized afternoon soccer scrums for their teammates last year.
The Blue Jays lost a challenge in the fourth inning after Plouffe went from first to third on a single by Rosario. Right-fielder Michael Saunders' throw to Josh Donaldson made the play close, but the call stood after review.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Right-hander Kyle Gibson (5-8, 5.09 ERA) gets the ball for the series finale at Rogers Centre, with first pitch set for 12:07 p.m. CT. Gibson allowed five runs in five innings in a loss against the Tigers his last time out and has allowed 22 runs over his past five starts.
Blue Jays: R. A. Dickey (9-13, 4.43) is scheduled to start Sunday at 1:07 p.m. ET in the final game of the season between these two teams. Dickey is 2-1 with a 3.13 ERA in his past four starts after a seven-start stretch in which he logged a 5.93 ERA.