Recap: Toronto Blue Jays @ Minnesota Twins – April 15, 2014

The Toronto Blue Jays (8-6) scored five runs in the sixth inning en route to a 9-3 win over the Minnesota Twins (6-7) on Tuesday night in the first of a three-game series.

Stock_Morrow02Brett Lawrie drove in five runs, including as grand slam, as the Jays overcame a shaky outing from starter Brandon Morrow, who threw 98 pitches in just 3.2 innings. He was able to limit the damage, however, allowing just two runs on four hits and four walks, while striking out four.

Morrow struggled with his command, especially on the breaking ball. He threw just 55 strikes, and 13 of the 19 Twins he faced saw five or more pitches.

Gregg Zaun pointed out during the broadcast that Morrow wasn’t using his fastball enough at just 48%, and I have to agree. When you can throw 95 mph consistently, that’s a valuable weapon on a night when the cold weather makes gripping the breaking pitches tough. You have to give credit to Morrow for keeping the Jays in it, though, as this one could have gotten ugly early. Aaron Loup came in to strike out Joe Mauer to finish the 4th and earn the W.

Jose Bautista was stellar at the plate with three hits, leading a 14-hit barrage, but was forced to play centre field with Colby Rasmus nursing a tight hamstring. His inexperience out there came into play in the 2nd, when he took a bad route to what should have been a single, but turned into a triple and an eventual run scored. If Rasmus has to miss more time, my vote is on Melky Cabrera in centre with Moises Sierra in left, since both actually have experience there in the last five years.

The Jays broke the game open in the 5th inning with four consecutive hits off Phil Hughes, started by a bouncing double down the left field line by Munenori Kawasaki, who was playing his first game of the season. Bautista followed with an RBI single, and advanced to third on a single by Adam Lind. Edwin Encarnacion and Dioner Navarro followed with singles to load the bases for Sierra, who bounced out to first base. Mauer charged, and had a play at the plate on what would have been a force out, but elected to tag out Sierra instead, allowing Lind to score.

With the game still relatively tight in the 9th, Twins righty Jared Burton got two quick outs before issuing three consecutive walks to load the bases. Lawrie crushed a hanging cutter to deep left field for his second career grand slam.

Cabrera singled to lead off the game, extending his season-opening hitting streak to 14 games. Joe Carter holds the franchise record with a 16-gamer to begin the season.

After Loup, Neil Wagner threw 1.2 innings of scoreless relief. He was followed by Brett Cecil, who pitched an inning, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out two. Steve Delabar picked him up, getting a fielder’s choice to finish the 8th before turning it over to Sergio Santos for the 9th.

The Yankees were rained out, so Toronto moves a half game ahead of New York for first place in the American League East.

Injury Notes:

Stock_Reyes02– Jose Reyes played six innings at shortstop for Dunedin. He went 0-for-3 with a walk, reached on an error, and drove in a run on a fielder’s choice. He scored from second base on a double as well. … Casey Janssen got the start for Dunedin, which must have felt weird for him, but he pitched a scoreless inning, allowing just one single, while striking out one. Both Janssen and Reyes could re-join the big club on Friday in Cleveland. … Rasmus sat out the game because of tightness in his hamstring, which he suffered in Sunday’s game. He told reporters it felt much better, and he’s expected back in the lineup on Wednesday night. … Lind left the game in the 7th inning with lower back tightness, which appeared to have occurred when he scored in the 6th. He has a history with that injury, and sitting on the bench as the DH on a cold night (temperature at game time was 2 degrees celcius) must not have helped at all. That’s terrible news for him, since he’s been among the best hitters on the team in the early going. Hopefully this can be taken care of with a day or two of rest. But again, a three-man bench in this situation is crippling, especially when none of the bench players are even average MLB hitters.

According to Barry Davis, there’s a chance we won’t see baseball at all Wednesday night. Thursday’s scheduled game is a matinee, so they’ll just tack the rain/snow out into the evening, since the Jays don’t visit Minnesota again this season.

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