MINNEAPOLIS — The big bats of the Toronto Blue Jays love hitting at Target Field.
Seemingly every time Toronto comes to town, the baseball flies out of the park at a higher-than-normal rate. Usually it’s Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion doing the damage.
Those two were quiet Friday, but two new Blue Jays picked up the slack — including a familiar face in Twins Territory.
Third baseman Josh Donaldson and left fielder Chris Colabello homered in key spots for Toronto to saddle the Twins with a 6-4 loss. Minnesota knew Toronto’s lineup was capable of hitting the long ball, and this time the Twins fell victim to two first-year Blue Jays.
"They got five runs on two swings," said Twins manager Paul Molitor.
Minnesota jumped out to a 4-0 lead against Toronto starter Mark Buehrle, who has had the Twins’ number over the years. Yet despite that early offensive outburst, Minnesota couldn’t tack on anything the rest of the way. In fact, the Twins had just one more hit in the final eight innings against Buehrle, who picked up his sixth career complete game against Minnesota.
While the Twins don’t have the type of hitters who can routinely tie a game with one swing of the bat, the Blue Jays do. On Friday it was Donaldson with one of the biggest hits of the game. With Toronto trailing 4-1 in the fifth, he sent a three-run shot to straightaway center field off Twins starter Trevor May to tie the game. May left a changeup over the plate and Donaldson didn’t miss it.
It was Donaldson’s team-high 14th home run of the season — and his fifth homer in the last four games — and it came at a key moment. Once again, Toronto used the long ball to make Twins pitchers pay.
"He’s just strong. He can miss balls and hit them a long way," May said of Donaldson. "He keeps his hands back well. You’ve just got to mix it up and go with your best stuff. I’m not unhappy with the pitch choice. I’m definitely unhappy with the pitch location. I think a changeup down would have benefitted me a little bit better. I knew he was going to be aggressive there early in the count. That seems to be something they do a lot."
That was one of the few hiccups for May, who lasted six innings and struck out five while issuing just one walk. Before the home run by Donaldson, though, he fell behind Kevin Pillar before giving up a base hit, and served up a single to Jose Reyes on the first pitch. One pitch later, Donaldson tied the game up with a 415-foot blast.
Toronto was aggressive early in the count again in the ninth inning and witnessed the same result. Colabello, who spent two seasons with the Twins in 2013 and 2014, jumped on the first pitch from Minnesota closer and former teammate Glen Perkins for a two-run blast that put the Blue Jays up for good, 6-4.
Colabello began the year in Triple A but was called up earlier this month. He entered this weekend’s series against his old club on a bit of a hot streak. His ninth-inning homer did nothing but continue the roll he’s been on.
"He fits right into that lineup with the guys that like to hit the ball over the fence," May said of Colabello. "It’s unfortunate. He’s been known to do that kind of stuff. It wasn’t too shocking, I guess."
The Blue Jays hit two homers in a three-game series at Target Field last year. In 2013, it was three in a three-game series — all in one game, in fact. Back in 2012 Toronto hit five homers in a four-game series in Minnesota. On his own, Bautista has hit 11 home runs at Target Field in his career, the fifth-most of any park.
Toronto added two more homers to that list. Unfortunately for the Twins, it resulted in just their eighth home loss of 2015.
"That’s a team over there that hits three-run homers," said Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe. "We don’t really do that. Every once in a while, obviously. But we need to get guys on base."