Blue Jays end 5-game losing streak with win over last-place Twins
Encarnacion belts home run innings before Tulowitzki singles in winning run
Troy Tulowitzki drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out, two-strike single in the 11th inning Thursday and the Toronto Blue Jays halted a five-game losing streak with a 3-2 comeback victory over the Minnesota Twins.
"There was cheering, people pushing each other, positive thoughts, positive comments," said acting Jays manager DeMarlo Hale.
Edwin Encarnacion's two-run home run tied the game in the sixth inning for the only big hit during a duel between Marco Estrada and Ervin Santana, who each pitched eight innings. Estrada and Roberto Osuna held the Twins hitless from the fourth through the 10th, and Joe Biagini worked the 11th inning for his first save.
Ryan Pressly gave up the one-out single to Encarnacion in the top of the 11th that set up the winning run, and Tulowitzki delivered against Fernando Abad to give the Twins, who are currently tied with the Atlanta Braves for the fewest wins in MLB, their 16th loss in the last 19 games.
"We needed a win pretty bad," Estrada said. "I'm glad we were able to pull this off."
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Tulowitzki nearly gave the Blue Jays the lead in the ninth, but outfielder Danny Santana made a leaping catch near the warning track to retire the side with a runner on second. As Santana slammed against the wall to stop his momentum, reliever Kevin Jepsen raised both arms in appreciation.
"I feel good out there. I feel more like myself. I've hit a lot of barrels this last week. Hopefully I can continue that," said Tulowitzki. "It's not like I wasn't upset about that. A 410-foot ball, usually it leaves the park."
Then in the 10th inning, Jimmy Paredes hit a leadoff double against Brandon Kintzler, who responded with three straight groundouts. Shortstop Eduardo Nunez saved the go-ahead run with a diving stop of Jose Bautista's bouncer and quick pivot as he jumped to his feet and made the throw to first in time.
Ervin Santana, who sat out two-plus weeks because of a lower back strain, stumbled in his first start off the disabled list. His last two turns have been much sharper, giving the reeling Twins some hope for their rotation. The right-hander has allowed nine hits and three runs over 14 innings with 10 strikeouts in that span.
Escaping a two-on, one-out situation in the first, Santana retired 13 consecutive batters and cruised into the sixth until a one-out walk to Josh Donaldson. Encarnacion followed, and with one whipsaw swing on a first-pitch fastball that caught too much of the plate, the dangerous designated hitter tied the game.
The ball landed in the second deck above left field, seemingly as quickly as it travelled from the mound to the plate. Encarnacion has seven homers and 18 RBIs with a .329 batting average in 20 career games at Target Field.
Estrada sharp again
Estrada was even better than Santana, but the right-hander was stuck with his fourth straight no-decision. He's receiving a paltry average of 2 1/2 runs per game over eight starts this season.
Estrada struck out nine hitters while allowing three hits and a walk, effectively using his changeup against righties and lefties.
"He's got a nice mix," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He knows how to pitch."
Paredes, who joined the Blue Jays this week after being claimed off waivers from Baltimore, has the hitting ability to overtake Ryan Goins as the regular second baseman. But the newcomer committed a damaging error in the first inning when he let a groundball go through his legs with one out and Brian Dozier on first. Dozier eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Miguel Sano.
Joe Mauer pushed the lead to 2-0 with a two-out single in the third, but Estrada locked down the Twins after that. He struck out nine with three hits and a walk.
Hale put Bautista in the leadoff spot for the first time since 2010.
"Just trying to kick-start this offence," Hale said.
The Jays will send right-hander Aaron Sanchez, 23, to the hill Friday at 8:10 p.m. ET to square off against fellow right-hander Tyler Duffey.