Jays edge Twins in walk-off
TORONTO—Kevin Pillar had a chat with slugger Jose Bautista as they practised their swings shortly before the Toronto Blue Jays took on the Minnesota Twins last night.
Bautista offered some words of encouragement for the back-up outfielder and told him to be aggressive at the plate.
Pillar hit a one-out flare to right-field off Casey Fien that drove in pinch-runner Erik Kratz with the winning run to give the Jays a 5-4 walk-off victory at Rogers Centre.
“It was a slider off the plate and I was just able to nestle it in somewhere,” Pillar noted.
“And it feels good.”
Earlier in the inning, Pillar made a miscue in left field by diving for Kurt Suzuki’s sinking liner.
He couldn’t come up with the ball and it rolled by him—allowing the Twins to move within a run.
Eduardo Escobar then followed with a blooper off closer Casey Janssen that landed just inside the left-field foul line that brought Suzuki home with the tying run.
“Baseball is a weird game,” Pillar said. “You get a chance to make up for a mistake that you made maybe in the previous inning or early in the game.
“I was fortunate enough to make that happen.”
Edwin Encarnacion had staked Toronto (39-26) to an early lead with a three-run homer in the first inning off Minnesota starter Ricky Nolasco.
Jose Reyes added a solo homer in the fifth inning for the Jays, who lead the majors with 91 home runs.
With the win, the Jays remained 5.5 games ahead of second-place Baltimore in the AL East division standings.
The Orioles defeated the Boston Red Sox 4-0 yesterday.
It was Toronto’s 16th victory in its last 20 games.
“We’ve been playing good baseball but you still need to win some of those games like that,” said Jays’ manager John Gibbons.
“For the longest time, everything has been going our way,” he noted.
“Tonight things didn’t go our way but we still managed to come out and pull out a nice win.”
Minnesota (29-33) scored a pair of quick runs off Toronto starter R.A. Dickey before many fans had taken their seats on a glorious spring evening.
Danny Santana hit his first career lead-off home run and Brian Dozier followed with a rainbow shot just inside the foul pole in left.
But Dickey settled down after that—retiring 11-straight batters at one point before Josh Willingham’s triple in the sixth inning.
The Twins loaded the bases but Dustin McGowan came on and got Trevor Plouffe to ground into a double play to end the threat.
Janssen (1-0), who blew just his second save of the season, gave up three hits in the ninth inning.
With the crowd deflated after the Twins tied the game, Minnesota pitcher Matt Guerrier (0-1) walked Dioner Navarro to open the bottom of the ninth.
Kratz came in to pinch-run, moved to second on a Reyes’ single, and then scored with room to spare.
“You walk the lead-off guy, you give yourself pretty much a mess and anything can happen after that,” said Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire.
Pillar, who had entered the game in the ninth as a defensive replacement for Melky Cabrera, said his defensive miscue was on his mind when he came to the plate.
Thinking about his chat with Bautista, Pillar swung and missed the first two times before making contact.
“It’s a huge roller-coaster of emotions right there,” he noted.
“I guess that’s baseball,” he reasoned. “There’s a lot of ups and downs.
“You have to find a way to get back centered and deal with the task at hand.”
Elsewhere in the AL, Seattle blanked Tampa Bay 3-0, Cleveland bombed Texas 17-7, Chicago topped Detroit 6-5, and L.A. beat Oakland 4-1.
New York at Kansas City was postponed.
Over in the NL, Washington dumped San Francisco 9-2, Pittsburgh beat Chicago 6-2, L.A. downed Cincinnati 6-2, and Atlanta shaded Colorado 3-1.
Houston edged Arizona 4-3 in the lone interleague game.