Liriano, Blue Jays defeat Twins 15-8 in series opener

BY foxsports • August 26, 2016

TORONTO -- In the final few weeks of a forgettable season, Twins manager Paul Molitor doesn't want his players hanging their heads.

Russell Martin and Justin Smoak each homered and drove in five runs as Toronto hammered Minnesota 15-8 Friday night, handing the Twins their eighth straight loss.

Trevor Plouffe hit a solo homer for the last-place Twins. Minnesota has been tagged for at least eight runs in four straight games.

The latest defeat came after Molitor took the tenor of his team with a pregame meeting.

"I told them it's not a matter of me trying to convince them how many games we can win," Molitor said. "I just talked about what was left on the table here over the last 35 games. You're looking for guys to just step up and take the challenge head on."

Even though the session didn't change Minnesota's fortunes, newly promoted pitcher Andrew Albers said he appreciated Molitor's message

"It's easy to get down when things aren't going your way," Albers said. "I thought the meeting was good. It was all about staying positive and trying to finish strong."

Josh Donaldson, who drove in three runs, and Darwin Barney, who had three hits, also each homered for Toronto. The Blue Jays took a one-game lead in the AL East over Boston.

"The offense came to life and it was a big night," manager John Gibbons said.

Francisco Liriano gave up four runs and two hits in five innings to win for the first time in four starts since Toronto got him a trade with Pittsburgh on Aug. 1. Liriano is 7-12 overall, and 3-1 in five career starts against Minnesota, his team from 2005 to 2012.

Three of the four batters who walked against Liriano came around to score.

"I was a little bit wild today," Liriano said through a translator. "Thank God that the offense hit the ball well today."

Smoak connected off Pat Dean (1-4) in the second inning and Donaldson followed three batters later with his 30th.

Starting in place of Hector Santiago (bruised left thumb), Dean allowed six runs and eight hits in three innings.

"He's got to learn to continue to trust that he has to change speeds a little bit more," Molitor said. "A lot of things coming in there around the same speed."

Smoak also hit RBI singles in the third and seventh.

"He stepped up tonight," Gibbons said. "A lot of the guys did."

Barney homered off Albers to begin a four-run sixth for the Blue Jays. Martin capped the inning with a three-run double off Pat Light.

Toronto batted around a second time in the seventh. Martin had the big blow again, a two-run homer off Ryan O'Rourke. Seven of Martin's 15 home runs have come in his past 11 games.

"When those guys get hot, they're tough," Albers said. "You saw it all year last year. They can put up 12 or 15 against anybody. "

Before the game, Toronto got switch-hitting catcher Dioner Navarro in a trade with the Chicago White Sox, reacquiring a member of their 2015 AL East championship team.

HOME AND NATIVE LAND

Albers, from Saskatchewan, made his first big league appearance in Canada. "As a kid growing up, you always dream of pitching here one day," Albers said. "Getting the opportunity to do that tonight was kind of a dream come true."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Twins: 1B Joe Mauer (quadriceps) missed his third straight game. He's expected to return Saturday. ... RHP Alex Wimmers was selected from Triple-A Rochester and made his major league debut with a scoreless eighth.

UP NEXT

Twins: RHP Ervin Santana (6-10, 3.39) struck out a season-high 10 batters in his previous start but took the loss against Kansas City.

Blue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman (9-5, 4.47) is 1-1 with a 2.10 ERA in four August starts, allowing six runs in 25 2-3 innings.


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