Blue Jays 6, Twins 2

Henderson Alvarez has risen up Toronto’s organization and

handled himself on the mound with composure well beyond his 22

years.

His sinker sure helps that confidence.

Alvarez pitched seven strong innings to win his third straight

start for the Blue Jays, 6-2 over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday

night behind 12 ground-ball outs.

”He’s very calm and collected out there. He knows how good he

is, not in a cocky sense but in how to attack the game and attack

hitters and know that he can throw that ball up there and miss

spots and still get ground balls,” catcher J.P. Arencibia said.

”I think he’s mature beyond his age, and he’s getting better with

every start.”

Alvarez (3-2) stretched his scoreless streak to 17 innings

before second baseman Kelly Johnson’s throwing error allowed the

Twins to score an unearned run in the third. Josh Willingham hit a

home run in the sixth, but the 22-year-old Venezuelan didn’t give

up any more than that. He allowed seven hits and three walks while

striking out two.

”He knows he’s got a good defense behind him, and they’re

making all the plays,” said Alvarez’s interpreter, Luis

Rivera.

Yunel Escobar scored three times and hit four singles, and Edwin

Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie each drove in two runs against Jason

Marquis (2-2), the second veteran Twins starter in two nights to

complete only four innings – following Carl Pavano’s early exit.

Marquis allowed seven hits and six runs – five earned – while

walking three and striking out two.

Coming off his first career shutout last week against the Los

Angeles Angels, Alvarez got the Twins to hit ground ball after

ground ball just when he needed it. They hit into three double

plays and almost had a fourth, but Johnson’s wild relay after the

shortstop Escobar bobbled a grounder hit right at him wiped that

one out.

Alvarez helped himself, too, on a scorcher sent back to the

mound by Doumit in the second. Alvarez reached down to grab it like

a hockey goalie in one smooth scoop and turned to throw for the out

as Doumit tossed his bat toward the dugout in frustration.

”Really, he kept control of the game. He might not have been as

sharp as his last time out, but just a solid effort by him

overall,” manager John Farrell said.

Alvarez made his debut with the Blue Jays last year, getting 10

starts down the stretch after beginning the season in Class A.

”He trusts his infielders, trusts the defense, and we’re able

to keep the game crisp when he’s on the mound,” Farrell said.

The Twins’ majors-worst record fell to 8-23, and this was

another wince-worthy performance. No sequence was more exemplary of

a sputtering team than in the fourth inning, when Encarnacion hit a

seemingly harmless two-out pop-up in front of the plate with two

runners on.

Catcher Ryan Doumit never saw it, as if the ball were lost in

the faded beige roof the Twins used to play under at the Metrodome

before they moved to the open air at Target Field. Marquis crept

forward, looking like he figured Doumit would take it – until

realizing otherwise and losing track of it himself. Marquis hustled

toward the ball was close to position for the catch until

hesitating at the last second, when he heard someone else call for

it. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe had a late break on the ball but

told manager Ron Gardenhire he should’ve caught it.

”When it rains it pours,” Doumit said, ”and it’s pouring

right now.”

The ball fell between them and bounced on the grass as Escobar

raced home to stretch the lead to 6-1.

”It’s not one’s person’s fault. It’s a team effort, and we’ve

got to get better at our jobs,” Marquis said.

NOTES: The Blue Jays have won 11 of their last 13 games against

the Twins, dating to 2010. … Twins RH P.J. Walters, the latest

reinforcement from Triple-A Rochester, will start Saturday night.

He said his family was scrambling to make travel arrangements to

watch his debut. LF Darin Mastroianni, the other call-up in the

latest set of moves, will have to wait a little bit for his loved

ones to arrive. His younger brother is graduating from Brevard

College in North Carolina this weekend. ”That kind of supersedes

this, with Mother’s Day coming up,” Mastroianni said. Both Walters

and Mastroianni were with the Blue Jays for one game last year.

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