MINNEAPOLIS -- Few things seemed as probable as the eighth-inning rally staged by the Minnesota Twins on Saturday afternoon
For seven innings, J.A. Happ mowed through the Twins lineup, allowing just one hit and three baserunners.
That all changed in the eighth inning for the team with baseball's worst record at 11-31.
Minnesota seemed destined to go down meekly again until Robbie Grossman started the eighth with a single and Darin Mastroianni walked to put two on with nobody out. Two batters later, Danny Santana slapped a two-run double down the right-field line to tie the game at 2-2 and end Happ's afternoon.
Gavin Floyd entered, hit Brian Dozier with a pitch before serving up the fatal blow, a homer by Nunez that traveled 424 feet over the left-field fence.
"It was huge," Nunez said. "We're struggling. We know that. It's not a secret. But we're pushing. We have a lot of guys struggling in the lineup at the same time and it's tough. But hopefully it all starts today."
"Martin played with me on the Yankees and he knows I don't like pitches in and was looking for a double play," Nunez said. "I was looking for a sinker because I knew the situation.
"After the second pitch, he saw me check-swing and thought maybe I wasn't ready, but that was because I was looking for a slider. Maybe he thought I wasn't ready for that pitch but I was prepared for it."
Fernando Abad (1-1) picked up the win, getting a double play to end the eighth inning before the rally. Kevin Jepsen allowed a solo homer in the ninth to Michael Saunders but retired the side for his third save.
"There hasn't been a lot, we all know that," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We talked yesterday about these guys trying to keep their hunger and find a way to come out here and work every day and try to stay positive. It's challenging when you go through what we've been through."
Pat Dean, making his first big league start in his third appearance, did not figure into the final decision. He allowed two runs and three hits and three walks while striking out five over six innings.
"The big thing was just staying aggressive," Dean said. "I knew these guys would be out there swinging and swinging hard. They've been doing that all series so I wanted to make sure I was aggressive as well."
The only mistake Dean made was a hanging slider to Jose Bautista in the top of the third inning with a runner aboard. Bautista hammered it an estimated 392 feet into the second deck in left for his ninth homer of the season, second in as many days and 13th in 20 games since Target Field opened in 2010.
Happ (5-2) was charged with the loss despite the quality start, allowing three runs on three hits and three walks over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out five.
The veteran southpaw retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced and didn't give up a hit until a leadoff double by Nunez in the fourth inning.
Nunez was erased moments later when Miguel Sano flew out to center and Kevin Pillar threw out Nunez trying to advance after tagging up.
"He couldn't have pitched any better," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "But then the leadoff hit and the walk, walks always, in tight games, they're guaranteed to burn you, it's like the baseball gods punishing you."
It was a solid bounce back outing for Happ, who allowed eight earned runs in two innings to the Tampa Bay Rays Monday.
"Other than that eighth inning, I felt really good about it," Happ said. "Even with that eighth inning, that's going to happen. The game was close and it got away from us there, but we'll try and come back, win the series tomorrow and go from there.
Toronto (21-24) did a bulk of its work without Josh Donaldson, who was ejected moments into the game after an argument with home plate umpire Toby Basner.
In the top of the first inning, Donaldson grounded out to shortstop and engaged Basner on his way back to the dugout. It was Donaldson's second ejection of the season and ninth of the year by Toronto, the most in the majors.
NOTES: Blue Jays 2B Devon Travis went 0-for-5 in the second game of a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Buffalo on Friday. Travis, who has missed the entire campaign because of offseason shoulder surgery, was expected to return perhaps as early as this weekend but is now more likely to be closer to June 1. ... Blue Jays LHP Aaron Loup will move his rehab assignment from Class-A Dunedin to Buffalo on Saturday. Loup pitched in three games with Dunedin rehabbing a left flexor strain sustained in early March. ... Twins SS Eduardo Escobar had one hit in his first rehab game with Class-A Fort Myers on Friday. Escobar, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 7 with a groin strain, could return to the Twins as soon as Monday. ... Twins RHP Kyle Gibson will make his first rehab start on Sunday for Fort Myers. Gibson was placed on the disabled list April 27 with a right shoulder strain. He will likely need two or three starts in the minors before re-joining the big league club.