MINNEAPOLIS — One of the benefits of September call-ups for teams in playoff contention is the ability to expand a bullpen.
That has been the case for the Minnesota Twins, who needed plenty of pitchers Thursday in a 3-2, 10-inning win against the Toronto Blue Jays. Starter Jose Berrios and six relievers combined on the winning effort, with the Dillon Gee getting the victory.
The clubs meet again Friday in the second game of a four-game series.
Twins manager Paul Molitor is thankful for the ability to use quite a few arms on any given night, and he is not afraid to make frequent pitching changes at this point of the season.
“There’s a lot to try to put in the mixer when you go to a situation, and every game has a different challenge,” Molitor said. “Some innings obviously you might have to go with four or five guys. That’s just the way it is. We have the luxury of having enough people to do that. It’s fun to try to prepare for that and think through it the best way that you can.”
Molitor and the Twins hope their bullpen can get a bit of rest when Bartolo Colon takes the mound Friday.
Colon (6-12, 6.41 ERA) had his worst outing as a Twin the last time out as he lasted just 1 2/3 innings Sunday at Kansas City. He gave up six runs on six hits. The 44-year-old right-hander is 4-4 with a 4.69 ERA since joining Minnesota in mid-July.
Twins fans will be celebrating Colon on Friday for “Big Sexy Night” as some in attendance will receive T-shirts with the 20-year veteran’s No. 40 and his nickname “Big Sexy” on the back.
Colon will be facing the Blue Jays for the 29th time in his big league career. He is 12-6 with a 4.12 ERA lifetime against Toronto, including a 2-0 mark with a 2.31 ERA in two starts this year. On Aug. 25 at Rogers Centre, he tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball in a 6-1 win.
The Blue Jays will counter with another veteran, left-hander J.A. Happ, who has earned wins in each of his past two starts. Happ (8-10, 3.73 ERA) hasn’t had much success against Minnesota in his career, going 1-4 with a 6.08 ERA in six games (five starts) vs. the Twins.
Minnesota roughed up Happ in the most recent meeting — the same Aug. 25 game that Colon won. The Twins tagged him for five runs on eight hits in six innings.
Happ and the rest of the Blue Jays’ pitching staff will have to figure out a way to slow Twins center fielder Byron Buxton, who hit a walk-off homer in the series opener. Buxton, who also had a single, is now 9-for-17 with four home runs in his career against Toronto.
“Buxton, heck, we haven’t been able to keep him in the park,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “The last time we saw them at our place, and we actually held him in check until that at-bat. He’s going to be a great, great player.”
Minnesota enters play Thursday with a three-game lead on the Los Angeles Angels in the chase for the second American League wild card.