MINNEAPOLIS -- For the second consecutive night, the Twins won on a walk-off homer, as Byron Buxton delivered a two-out blast in the 10th inning to push his club past the Blue Jays, 3-2, on Thursday night at Target Field.
With their third straight win, Minnesota increased its lead for the second American League Wild Card spot to three games over the Angels, who lost to the Astros.
Buxton crushed a 1-0 curveball from Toronto's Luis Santos for his first career walk-off homer. According to Statcast™, the ball traveled a projected 405 feet at 103.4 mph. The Twins have five walk-off wins this season and three via home runs.
"I was just looking for something up in the zone," Buxton said. "A couple of guys who had faced [Santos] in the Minor Leagues said he loved to throw offspeed, so when he missed with a fastball up, I was waiting for it and he left a slider over the plate."
The theatrics were needed after Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak launched a game-tying home run in the ninth with two outs. His solo blast off closer Matt Belisle went 384 feet at 99.4 mph, according to Statcast™. It was fifth blown save by Belise this season, but the second since he became the team's de facto closer.
"[Smoak] kept us in the thing. We just haven't been scoring a whole lot of runs lately," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "We have been playing a lot of 2-1, those kinds of ballgames. Santos has been pitching great, too. His slider just spun there and Buxton hit it out."
Neither starter factored into the decision in the series opener. Brett Anderson, who dealt with a blister, pitched his shortest outing as a member of the Blue Jays, allowing two runs on five hits over 4 1/3 innings. Jorge Polanco delivered the two-run single in the fifth to chase Anderson from the game.
Minnesota right-hander Jose Berrios spun 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball and allowed five hits.
"It's incredible," Berrios said. "The way we won yesterday and today shows we have fight in us and we want to make the postseason. It speaks volumes to the type of talent we have in this clubhouse."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Free passes: Anderson displayed a rare lapse in his command during the Twins' rally in the fifth. After issuing just one walk to the first 84 batters he faced as a member of the Blue Jays, Anderson granted three consecutive one-out walks to load the bases. With the bags full, Polanco then delivered a two-run single to left, which gave Minnesota a 2-1 advantage and ended Anderson's night. More >
"We had to grind it out to score," Molitor said. "Polanco got a big hit for us. But then [Eduardo] Escobar lined out into a double play."
Smoak goes deep: The Twins escaped a pair of jams in the sixth and seventh innings, but were unable to record the final out in the top of the ninth. Smoak deposited an 0-1 slider from Belisle over the right-field wall to even the score at 2. It was his 38th homer of the season and 11th blast in the ninth inning or later, which paces the Majors and is five more than the next closest batter. It also broke Tony Batista's club record of 10 home runs in the ninth inning or later, which was set in 2000.
"My mindset is just to try to win a ballgame," Smoak said. "Tie it up in the ninth against a team that is playing well, it keeps us in the game. It gives us another inning to try and get one across, we just weren't able to tonight."
"I was just hoping Buck could get on base, steal second and maybe we get a single. So for him to be able to put a good swing, I know he's been battling, we talk about the hand all the time, he's finding a way to compete with no complaints, and tonight he walks it off." -- Molitor, on Buxton, who has been nursing a bruised left hand since Aug. 31
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Thursday marked the first time the Twins had won on back-to-back walk-off homers since Aug. 6-7, 1970, against the A's.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
There was a crew-chief review in the seventh to see if Polanco's deep drive down the right-field line was fair, but after a replay review the call stood as a foul ball. Polanco ended up drawing a walk.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (8-10, 3.73 ERA) is slated to start for Toronto. In his last start, Happ was charged with one earned run over six frames in the win against the Tigers. Happ has allowed three or fewer runs over his last three outings.
Twins: Right-hander Bartolo Colon (6-12, 6.41 ERA) is set to start for the Twins on Big Sexy Night at Target Field on Friday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Colon is coming off a rough start, in which he gave up six runs over a season-low 1 2/3 innings against the Royals.