Twins-Blue Jays Preview
The Toronto Blue Jays might now have the overall talent needed to reach the postseason, and the growing confidence to get there.
They can complete a four-game home sweep of the reeling Minnesota Twins with a fifth consecutive victory Thursday night.
With Wednesday's 9-7 victory, Toronto (57-52) has won seven of the last eight on its 10-game homestand and owns a one-game lead over Baltimore for the AL's second wild-card spot. A grand slam by Jose Bautista, three-run homer from Edwin Encarnacion and a two-run shot off the bat of Josh Donaldson helped the Blue Jays continue their surge.
''We went out there (Wednesday) and we did what we do best,'' Bautista said.
That power trio, combined with recent marquee additions Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, has the Blue Jays feeling good about themselves every time they step on the field.
"Winning games is fun," Tulowitzki told MLB's official website. "That makes (being here) comfortable, that makes it fun, and it's really what you come from the ballpark for."
Toronto has totaled 31 home runs while hitting at least one in 17 of the last 18 contests. Donaldson, who has homered in each game of this set to match his career high of 29, has seven home runs and 18 RBIs in the last 15 games.
The Blue Jays will try to complete the sweep of Minnesota (54-53) behind Mark Buehrle (11-5, 3.32 ERA), who is 5-1 with a 3.09 ERA in nine home starts.
His 29 wins over the Twins are the left-hander's most against any opponent. Buehrle won his fourth consecutive start against Minnesota on May 29 when he threw a six-hitter in a 6-4 victory to record one of his four complete games this season.
Brian Dozier is 3 for 7 with two doubles against Buehrle, but is batting .132 with 14 strikeouts in the last nine contests. Teammate Trevor Plouffe drove in a pair of runs Wednesday, but is 2 for his last 14 and batting .167 when facing Buehrle.
Overtaken by Toronto for that second wild-card spot with Tuesday's 3-1 defeat, Minnesota has dropped 13 of the last 17 to drop two behind the Blue Jays. Though the Twins matched their run total from the previous five contests Wednesday, they blew a 3-0 first-inning lead.
''I think we're all frustrated,'' manager Paul Molitor said. ''We see what's happening and the fact that we're having trouble winning games.''
Kyle Gibson (8-8, 3.37) allowed 12 runs in 10 1-3 innings to lose his first two starts following the All-Star break, then gave up two in seven innings while not factoring in the decision of a 3-2 win over Seattle on Saturday. The Twins have provided the right-hander with two runs of support in those three starts.
Gibson has yielded one earned run over 13 2-3 innings to go 1-0 in two starts against the Blue Jays but is facing them for the first time on the road.
While Bautista and Encarnacion are a combined 1 for 9 when facing Gibson, Donaldson is 2 for 5 with a double.