MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor hoped for Byron Buxton to simply get on base with two outs in the 10th inning, knowing the possibilities of what his centerfielder could do on the bases with his speed.
Buxton’s 10th-inning homer gave the Twins their second straight walk-off victory, a 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night.
A night after Eddie Rosario beat the San Diego Padres with a 10th-inning homer, Buxton connected off Toronto’s Luis Santos with two outs. Buxton’s 15th homer didn’t leave much suspense as it reached the second deck in left field.
“For him to be able to put a good swing, I know he’s been battling, we talk about the hand all the time, but he’s found a way to compete each and every night,” Molitor said. “No complaints. He’s just going out there and tonight he walks off the game’s hero.”
Buxton has been playing through a hand injury which knocked him out for one game at the start of the month. He has 10 homers and 25 RBIs in his last 31 games, and he’s hit four homers in four games against the Blue Jays this season.
“Heck, we haven’t been able to keep him in the park,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “He’s going to be a great, great player.”
Talking to reporters with his left hand heavily wrapped after the game, Buxton said he got a tip from teammates who faced Santos in the minors that the right-handed reliever likes to rely on off-speed pitches.
After taking a fastball for a 1-0 count, Buxton waited and got a breaking pitch over the plate for his first career walk-off hit.
“It just pushes us,” Buxton said of the second straight walk-off win. “It shows how much character we got as a team to keep fighting and not give up. Every at-bat is a fight for us. We go out there and try to have quality at-bats and keep the line moving.”
Dillon Gee (2-2) pitched one inning of relief for Minnesota, which earned its fifth walk-off win of the season and has won six of its past eight games. The Twins maintained their lead for the second wild card in the American League.
Santos (0-1) recorded two outs in the loss. Justin Smoak tied the game for the Jays with a two-out homer in the top of the ninth off Minnesota closer Matt Belisle.
Toronto has played 16 one-run games in its past 30, going 7-9 in that stretch.
“We just haven’t been scoring a whole lot of runs lately,” Gibbons said. “We’ve been playing a lot of 2-1, those kind of ballgames. Santos has been pitching great, too, I think it was just a little slider that just kind of spun there.”
Belisle’s fifth blown save of the season overshadowed a Twins’ bullpen that combined to give up one run and three hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Minnesota’s bullpen owns a 3.68 ERA in 41 games since Aug. 1, the day after trading All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler to the Washington Nationals when the Twins dropped 4 1/2 games out of the second wild card.
Trevor Hildenberger, who allowed an eighth-inning homer to tie the game a night earlier, struck out Jose Bautista and Kendrys Morales in the seventh to strand two Blue Jays.
Blue Jays: OF Steve Pearce was out of the lineup again as he deals with back soreness. Pearce has missed the past six games. … C Russell Martin was out of the lineup for a planned day off after returning Wednesday from a strained left oblique.
Twins: Miguel Sano (left shin stress reaction) was held out from any baseball activities on Thursday as he received treatment on his leg. Sano expressed frustration before the game about the slow progress he’s made since the injury on Aug. 20. He said the injury still hurts when he runs and there is no timetable for his return.
Bartolo Colon (6-12, 6.41 ERA) starts for Minnesota on “Big Sexy Night,” a special theme night created by the team. Colon is 4-4 with a 4.69 ERA in 11 starts for the Twins. Toronto turns to left-hander J.A. Happ (8-10 3.73). Happ has allowed three earned runs in 17 2/3 innings (1.53 ERA) over his last three starts.