Preview: Twins vs. Blue Jays
Josh Donaldson is enjoying a tremendous power surge as he gets ready to face a team he has tormented in the past.
The Toronto Blue Jays slugger owns a 17-game hitting streak against the streaking Minnesota Twins heading into Friday night’s three-game series opener at Target Field.
Donaldson went 7 for 11 with four homers, nine runs and seven RBIs to help Toronto take two of three at home from the Chicago White Sox this week. He’s batting .424 during his run against Minnesota.
The Blue Jays (22-27) look to end a five-game road slide and the Twins’ five-game win streak. Minnesota is a major league-best 15-5 when facing left-handed starters and will see a familiar face Friday in Mark Buehrle.
Buehrle (5-4, 5.13 ERA) owns 28 wins against Minnesota for his most against any opponent, and he’s 2-2 with a 1.20 ERA in four outings at Target Field.
He has faced Torii Hunter more than any batter but one, with the outfielder a .247 hitter in this matchup. Joe Mauer bats .203 versus Buehrle, though he’s a .314 hitter against lefties this year.
Minnesota (28-18) may find Buehrle easier to face now since his .312 opponent batting average is one of baseball’s worst marks. He dropped a second straight start Saturday by allowing three runs in 7 1-3 innings in a 3-2 loss to Seattle.
The Twins have been one of baseball’s biggest surprises in moving into a first-place tie with Kansas City atop the AL Central. Hunter is 9 for 27 with eight RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak.
"We’re battling at the plate, going first to third, coming up with some big hits when we need them and playing great defense right now," Hunter said. "This is the best I’ve seen in a long time. It’s good to be in first, now you’ve just got to hold on to it."
Aaron Hicks hit a two-run homer for his first RBIs in Wednesday’s 6-4 victory over Boston that completed a three-game sweep.
The Twins have one of the majors’ best averages with runners in scoring position at .299, with Mauer hitting .413 in those situations.
Toronto comes to town leading the majors with 5.20 runs per game and an AL-best .434 slugging percentage. Wednesday’s 5-3, 10-inning loss to Chicago capped a 5-5 homestand.
"We’re feeling pretty good right now, it’s a long way to go but we’re feeling pretty good," manager John Gibbons said.
The Blue Jays are 12-5 at Target Field, where sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have fared very well. Bautista owns the most homers among visiting players there with 11 in 14 games, while Encarnacion is a .357 hitter with six homers and 16 RBIs in 16 contests.
Toronto will get its first look at starter Trevor May (3-3, 4.95), who owns a 3.99 home ERA compared to 6.91 on the road. The right-hander yielded three runs in seven innings to earn Saturday’s 4-3 road victory over the White Sox.
Blue Jays right fielder Chris Colabello returns to Minnesota for the first time after spending his previous two seasons with the Twins. He is batting .419 over an eight-game hitting streak.