Mastroianni's first career hits highlight exciting win over Blue Jays
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins received contributions from nearly everyone in the starting lineup to eek out a 7-6 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.
By the end of Friday night's game -- near midnight, due to a 111-minute rain delay at the start -- hundreds of Blue Jays fans broke out in a "let's go (Brett) Lawrie!" chant, which was countered by the "U.S.A.!" chant from Twins fans.
The festive atmosphere fit in well with what was one of the Twins' most action-packed games of the season.
In the end, Triple-A call-up Darin Mastroianni sparked the offense with two hits and three RBIs, including driving home the seventh and decisive run in the bottom of the seventh. And closer Matt Capps retired one of the most dangerous hitters in the game in the ninth inning with the tying run on third base -- this after two key defensive plays prevented the Jays from tying the game in the eighth.
The victory provided a temporary jolt of positivity through a Twins clubhouse that hasn't had much of it this season.
"A very exciting night around here," said manager Ron Gardenhire. "The guys were really into it in the dugout and laughing and joking, and that's the way it's supposed to be. A tight ballgame and guys are into the game and laughing and joking and enjoying the baseball game, and that was pretty nice to see."
With the game tied 2-2 the Twins appeared to break the game open in the fifth inning on a bloop RBI double by Josh Willingham, a bases-loaded walk by Chris Parmelee and a two-out, two-RBI single up the middle by Mastroianni to make it 6-2 -- Mastroianni's first career hit and RBIs.
"That was unbelievable," said Mastroianni, who the Twins claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays in February. "Obviously you want to get that first hit and just be in the books that you got a hit in the big leagues, but for it to be such an important one is something I can't even imagine. I was really fortunate to get that opportunity tonight."
But starter Nick Blackburn immediately gave back three runs in the top of the sixth when Jose Bautista blasted a solo shot to left and Eric Thames a two-run homer to center. Bautista also homered in the first inning off Blackburn, who allowed five earned runs on six hits and three walks while striking out three in five innings.
Prior to a disastrous sixth inning Blackburn seemed to find a groove for the first time in weeks, at one point inducing 10 groundballs out of 15 batted balls which included five grounders back to the mound.
"Three hitters. It was incredible. Homer, walk, homer, after throwing the ball so well," Gardenhire said. "I felt bad for the kid because he pitched so well up until that point. He just made a couple pitches attacking the strike zone and they banged him quick."
Blackburn was charged with five earned runs on six hits and three walks while striking out three in five-plus innings.
The Twins added insurance to a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh on another RBI single by Mastroianni, but Edwin Encarnacion answered with a solo blast off Glen Perkins to bring the Blue Jays back to within a run.
Perkins ran into more trouble when Thames and Lawrie reached on singles with nobody out. But first baseman Parmelee turned a Colby Rasmus grounder into a 3-6 double play, and Willingham made a diving catch on a sinking liner to end the inning and rob Ben Francisco of a hit that would have tied the game.
Capps got Bautista to pop out with a runner on third base to end the game.
"Tough situation," Gardenhire said. "Bautista, or walk him and go to Encarnacion. One's got two home runs one's got one home run. Each of them has 30 RBIs. If you walk Bautista he's going to steal second, and then you've got two guys out there, so take your chance. I think (Tom Kelly) told me a long time ago, 'Don't take the ball out of the hand of your closer. Let him make the decision if he wants to pitch around a guy.' Because I did it once in New York and TK yelled at me. ...
"Fortunately for us (Bautista) tried to poke a hole in a cloud and Plouffe was able to catch it."
Blue Jays starter Kyle Drabek threw 109 pitches in only 4 1/3 innings (61 strikes), allowing four hits and four walks while striking out five. But the Twins were only to tag him with three runs despite having him on the ropes several times in the early innings.
Without some slick defense in the top of the eighth inning, the Twins wouldn't have carried a lead into the ninth.
Parmelee's backhanded stab and quick thinking to step on first base and fire to second wasn't spontaneous.
"I actually thought about it right before that pitch -- if I get a ball to my left towards the line I'm going to go ahead and tag the bag first and throw to second," he said. "Because with Rasmus' speed I didn't feel like I'd be able to get the ball all the way to second and back to first and get him."
Willingham capped the inning with a diving catch in the gap, leaving Perkins standing behind the mound with his jaw dropped.
"I knew it wasn't hit very well, and I just ran as hard as these little legs could go," Willingham said. "Once I got closing in on the ball I knew that I was going to have to make a dive or whatever for it. ...
"(Perkins) was probably like, 'I didn't think he was going to get there.'"
1: Win for Blackburn -- his first since July 8 of last season. "I just kind of hit a wall, which is unacceptable," he said of his performance on Friday. "That was the offense and the bullpen getting that one. In no way do I deserve a win after that outing. That's kind of the funny thing about starting pitchers' records. A guy can go out and throw a great game and not get a win or get a loss out of it. Tonight it was definitely not a great game for me. But the team won. It's a huge win for us."
9: Career home runs for Bautista at Target Field.
7: Combined home runs by Mauer and Morneau at Target Field.
7: Runners left on base by Plouffe.
1:51: Length of the rain delay prior to the start of the game.
1: Error committed by shortstop Dozier, who booted a hard one-hopper off the bat of Adam Lind in the top of the fifth.
11 2/3: Consecutive hitless innings for right-hander Jared Burton, who retired the side in the top of the seventh. Hitters are now 3-for-41 off Burton this season.
Morneau (wrist) is expected to swing a bat at some point before Monday. There's hope he could rejoin the lineup late next week.