Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
MINNEAPOLIS -- Like a group of chemists, the Toronto Blue Jays found just the right mixture of good hitting, good pitching and bad blood on Sunday.
Early offense and a pitching gem by Marcus Stroman lifted the Blue Jays to a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Twins, as Toronto took three of the series' four games.
Stroman (5-1) allowed just three hits over 7 2/3 innings, while back-to-back home runs by Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson to start the game gave Toronto (22-24) all the runs it would need.
"I felt great today. I felt like I was commanding all day and I was able to get that depth early on," said Stroman, who had given up a season-worst 13 hits in his previous start. "I was able to locate it all day long."
Minnesota got a quality start, but not a win, from righty Phil Hughes (1-7), who settled down after the early trouble to keep Toronto off the board for the next five innings. It was the sixth loss in the past seven games for the Twins (11-32).
"We got off to a quick start, and I thought it was going to be a day where we would put up a lot of runs," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "Then Hughes settled in. We did a nice job and the bullpen held them in check. That's what good pitching can do for you, give you a chance to win every night."
Stung by a late-inning loss a day earlier, the Blue Jays wasted little time in announcing their presence on Sunday.
Bautista planted the fourth pitch of the game in a flower pot just over the left-field wall. It was Bautista's first leadoff homer since 2009. Three pitches later, the Toronto lead doubled as Donaldson sent a Hughes offering 425 feet to the grassy berm in center field. It was the first time in a decade that the Blue Jays had led off a game with back-to-back homers.
Toronto led 3-0 after half an inning when Michael Saunders walked and was doubled home by Troy Tulowitzki.
Minnesota got on the scoreboard in the second inning courtesy of Robbie Grossman's walk, Oswaldo Arcia's double and Kurt Suzuki's RBI ground-out that brought Grossman home, cutting the Toronto lead to 3-1.
Tempers flared in the fifth, and Gibbons was ejected after an argument with crew chief Joe West. The trouble started on Saturday when Donaldson was ejected in the first inning for comments he directed at the Twins' dugout.
Donaldson stared down the Twins' bench after his first-inning home run on Sunday, and protested when Hughes threw a pitch behind him to start the fifth, bringing Gibbons out of the dugout. It was the fourth time this season that Gibbons has been tossed.
"I stayed away from him his first at-bat and we all saw what happened there," Hughes said. "Second at-bat I went in twice, I believe, and ended up having pretty good success that way. I tried to go in twice and missed. That's just part of it. I don't know what he was all upset about, but you try to go in for effect and it ended up working out. The next pitch I threw him a cutter and he popped it up."
Stroman hit Suzuki with a pitch in the bottom of the fifth, but it did not produce further fireworks.
"I'm here to play baseball. I'm not out here to do that kind of fighting, and all that stuff," said Suzuki, who got his 1,000th career hit in the game. "I'm not one of those guys that puffs out their chest and act like they can fight the whole team. I try to calm down and get back to playing baseball."
Then Minnesota missed a chance to bring Suzuki in when Toronto center fielder Kevin Pillar made an impressive diving catch of Brian Dozier's long fly ball to the gap in left-center.
"I'll get him a pair of Jordans or something," Stroman joked. "He's always saving (those) and helping all of us out. We're just grateful to have him out there. Any ball that's remotely close to him, he comes down with."
The Twins began the eighth with back-to-back singles, but Dozier's bouncer to third started a double play and the Blue Jays emerged with their two-run advantage intact.
"We're trying some different things to get back in the game, either tie or go ahead," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Brian got a count in his favor and he rolled over a sinker, and they got the double play. Then they brought in their closer, one pitch and they were out of the inning."
Roberto Osuna came on in relief of Stroman in the eighth to get the final four outs for the Blue Jays, earning his ninth save.
NOTES: Brad Berry, coach of the national champion men's hockey team from the University of North Dakota, threw out the first pitch prior to Sunday's game flanked by a dozen of his players. The Fighting Hawks beat Quinnipiac last month in Tampa for the school's eighth national hockey title. ... The Twins announced on Sunday that LHP Glen Perkins, the closer, has suffered a setback in his efforts to return from a left shoulder strain. Perkins, who will take a week off from throwing, was placed on the disabled list on April 13. ... Saturday's loss to the Twins was the 13th loss by a Blue Jays reliever this season, which is most in the American League. Only Cincinnati relievers have lost more games, with 14. ... Minnesota's seven-game home stand continues on Monday evening when the Twins host the Kansas City Royals. Toronto, currently in the midst of a seven-game road swing, travels to New York for an off-day and will face the Yankees on Tuesday night.