MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota’s bullpen — and prospect of staying in first place — took a badly needed turn this week for the better.
“It’s a really good feeling going to the ‘pen right now and knowing what we’re sending out there to attack the opposition with,” manager Rocco Baldelli said after six relievers teamed to allow two hits and one run over five innings. “Our guys are excited coming into these games in these spots to help us win a game right now. Their confidence gives me confidence and gives, I think, the rest of the group confidence, too.”
All-Star Luis Arraez went 3 for 5 with an RBI for the Twins, who kept their two-game lead on Cleveland in the AL Central. They have been in first for 103 of the last 104 days.
Arraez doubled twice and scored on both of Polanco’s clutch hits — a single in the third inning off Blue Jays starter Mitch White (1-3) and a double in the fifth after White was replaced by Tim Mayza.
“We’ve got a bullpen. We’ve got starting. We’ve got everything,” Arraez said. “We just need to play hard and stay healthy.”
Mayza had a painful night, ending with a dislocated non-throwing shoulder. Three batters after surrendering Miranda’s 11th home run to start the sixth, Mayza charged a squeeze bunt that Sandy León dropped down in front of the mound for a single to score the speedy Nick Gordon.
His only chance was to try to scoop the ball in his glove and in the same motion make the tag, but he whiffed and whacked Gordon with his fully extended right arm. It bent awkwardly in the collision, causing Mayza to writhe around in the dirt for a bit before walking off slowly while clutching his shoulder. Mayza, who has a 2.88 ERA in 41 appearances, is Toronto’s only current left-handed reliever. He left the ballpark wearing a sling, after the joint relocated.
“He’s been a big part of it the whole year,” interim manager John Schneider said. “Other guys will have to step up obviously in his spot for a little bit, but we’re confident and we know we have capable guys to do that.”
Bo Bichette hit a tying two-run homer off Twins starter Dylan Bundy in the fourth inning and an RBI single in the eighth, but Jhoan Duran locked down that rally.
After inheriting runners at the corners with one out in the eighth and giving up Bichette’s bouncer up the middle, the right-hander who leads the major leagues in 100 mph pitches handed Matt Chapman his fourth strikeout of the game on a 101 mph heater and retired Whit Merrifield on a fielder’s choice grounder to end the inning with a 5-3 lead.
The wild card-leading Blue Jays, who are three games ahead of Baltimore, the first club below the three-team cut, didn’t threaten after that.
Trevor Megill (3-1) led off the relief parade with a perfect fifth, and newly acquired closer Jorge López finished up with a hitless ninth after blowing his save chance on Friday night in the 6-5 win by the Twins in 10 innings.
With Canada’s team well-supported at Target Field by their blue-clad fans, many of whom can make the day trip from Manitoba, this weekend has felt for both sides a bit like a playoff preview.
“These are the games you want to be playing in, not just now, but later in the year as well,” Schneider said.
VLAD GONE MAD
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 2 for 5 with a run scored to extend his career-high hitting streak to 17 straight games. The two-time All-Star is batting .420 (29 for 69) with eight doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs during his streak.
Gordon, who jammed his hip during the collision with Mayza but stayed in, is batting .519 (14 for 27) with six doubles and a homer in his last nine games. Miranda is batting .354 (28 for 79) with six homers and 24 RBIs in his last 22 games.
“They’re coming up in spots where we need certain things. They’re giving it to us, and that’s great to see,” Baldelli said.
Blue Jays: CF George Springer landed on the 10-day injured list with lingering inflammation in his right elbow that kept him out of four of the previous five games.
Twins: RF Max Kepler was reinstated from the 10-day injured list, recovered from a broken pinky toe on his right foot. He was hit there by a pitch on July 24.
Blue Jays: RHP Kevin Gausman (8-8, 3.06 ERA) pitches the finale of the four-game series. He threw eight shutout innings with just one hit and one walk allowed in his last start against Tampa Bay.
Twins: RHP Chris Archer (2-5, 4.05 ERA) takes the mound on Sunday afternoon. He had a season-high eight strikeouts in his last turn, but he has failed to finish five innings in four straight outings.
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