Twelve years into his major league career, Toronto Blue Jays slugger Kendrys Morales has the self-assurance to endure a weeklong slump.
The Minnesota Twins are starting to lose some of theirs, more than one month into this once-promising season.
Morales homered twice and reached base all five times he batted, including an intentional walk in the 10th inning when the Blue Jays scored twice on wild pitches by Twins reliever John Curtiss and sped away with a 7-4 victory on Tuesday night.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good. Things were just not going the way I wanted, but confidence has always been there,” Morales said through an interpreter after ending a career high-tying hitless streak of 21 at-bats and raising his batting average 48 points to .208.
The bullpen finished with five scoreless innings for the Blue Jays, with Tyler Clippard (4-0) taking the ninth for the win and Roberto Osuna working the 10th for his eighth save in nine tries. The Blue Jays are 14-0 when leading after eight innings, with a relief ERA of 2.16 that’s the second-best in the major leagues.
The Twins, who’ve tumbled through an alarming two weeks after leaving Puerto Rico with an 8-5 record , have lost 11 of their last 12 games.
“We’re kind of getting what we deserve in some ways,” an unusually irritated manager Paul Molitor said. “We’re not finding ways to play clean baseball, and it’s been biting us big time.”
Eddie Rosario put the Twins in front 4-3 in the sixth with a two-run homer , before a sacrifice fly by Kevin Pillar tied the game in the eighth against Addison Reed. Pillar, whose last 10 hits have been for extra bases, then led off the 10th against Curtiss (0-1) with a double.
Morales was walked with one out. After Pillar swiped third, Morales moved up with his first stolen base since Oct. 2, 2009, when Curtiss ducked late and catcher Mitch Garver didn’t throw. Luke Maile walked to load the bases, and Pillar came home on a wild pitch before Maile did the same. Another run scored between them on an infield single by Aledmys Diaz that was bobbled by shortstop Gregorio Petit.
Curtiss was sent to Triple-A Rochester after the game.
“It just kind of seems how it’s been going, just days and stretches where it doesn’t matter who you throw out there, it just seems like some crazy things are going to happen,” Twins starter Kyle Gibson said.
THE MORALES OF THE STORY
Morales hit a second-inning single that ended an 0-for-21 slide that was tied for the longest of his career. He followed with a solo homer to start the fifth off Gibson. Justin Smoak’s soft two-out single fell in shallow center field to tie the game at 2 later that inning. Then with Ryan Pressly pitching in the sixth, Morales went deep again for the lead with two outs and his 21st career multi-homer game.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “He’s too good of a hitter.”
Joe Mauer homered for the first time in 35 games, taking Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada deep in the first, and Rosario added an RBI double later in the inning. Estrada, who tied for 10th in the majors last season with a career-high 31 home runs allowed, is tied for second this year with nine homers in 32 innings.
Mauer sent a 3-1 fastball left up in the strike zone over the wall in right-center field for the early lead , his first long ball since last Sept. 17. Mauer took Toronto deep at Target Field with that one, too, a grand slam against Blue Jays reliever Chris Rowley in a 13-7 victory for the Twins. That was also the only one of seven homers last season that Mauer pulled . Mauer didn’t homer last year until May, either.
BAT AND BARREL
Max Kepler, who has been batting third and playing center field for the Twins with Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton on the disabled list, had his streak of 22 consecutive plate appearances without a single swing and a miss end during his fifth-inning strikeout. That’s the longest streak in the majors this season.
Blue Jays: Morales was a late addition to the lineup, due to ribcage tightness that developed for Steve Pearce. Morales, a switch-hitter, didn’t know during batting practice he’d be playing and thus didn’t take any left-handed swings. … 3B Josh Donaldson, who has missed 17 games with an inflamed shoulder, went 2 for 2 with a walk and an RBI for Class A Dunedin on his rehab assignment.
Twins: RHP Ervin Santana, whose recovery from surgery on his middle finger is running several weeks behind the original timetable, was scheduled to throw briefly off a mound Tuesday for the first time in his rehab. … Garver started a second consecutive for the first time this season, with Jason Castro battling a sore knee.
Blue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman (0-3, 8.88 ERA), who turned 27 on Tuesday, takes the mound for the series finale. He has allowed four or more runs each start.
Twins: RHP Fernando Romero, considered one of the organization’s top two pitching prospects, makes his major league debut on Wednesday afternoon.