For all the complaints Twins hitters have made about Target Field, Toronto’s Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion don’t seem to mind the place one bit.
In nine games over the past three seasons here, Bautista has nine home runs, and Encarnacion has six. The Twins can only marvel at this, of course, as Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have combined for seven home runs at their new home.
Bautista hit two more homers at Target Field, and Encarnacion hit one, leaving the Twins with a pretty serious dilemma in the ninth inning of a wild 7-6 victory, a game that ended Saturday morning.
The Blue Jays had the tying run on third base with two outs and Bautista coming to the plate. Encarnacion was on deck. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire let Capps face Bautista, who finished third in the American League MVP voting last year.
“If you walk Bautista, he’s going to steal second, and then you’ve got two guys out there,” Gardenhire said after his team won for only the ninth time in 32 games this season. “[Tom Kelly] told me a long time ago, 'Don’t take the ball out of the hands of your closer. Let him make the decisions, if he wants to pitch around the guy.’ ”
Capps went right after Bautista, getting him to pop up to third base for the game’s final out.
The teams waited through a 1-hour, 51-minute rain delay before the first pitch, so it was 12:17 a.m. when the ball settled into Trevor Plouffe’s glove, preserving Nick Blackburn’s first victory in 14 starts, dating to last July.
“That was a team win right there,” Blackburn said after leaving with a 6-5 lead in the sixth inning. “That was the offense and the bullpen getting that one. In no way do I deserve a win after that outing.”
The Twins grabbed a 6-2 lead in the fifth, but Bautista led off the sixth with his second homer of the game. He came in batting .177 with five homers and 15 RBI, so Blackburn wasn’t afraid to challenge him, especially with Encarnacion (11 homers, 29 RBI) waiting on deck.
After the Bautista homer, Encarnacion walked, and then Eric Thames trimmed the lead to 6-5 with a two-run homer to center field.
Gardenhire pulled Blackburn, knowing he would need four innings from his bullpen.
Alex Burnett came in and got the three outs in the sixth. Jared Burton pitched a perfect seventh, leaving opponents hitless in their past 34 at-bats against him.
Darin Mastroianni, who entered the game with no major league hits or RBI, gave the Twins a key insurance run in the seventh with a two-out RBI single. His first big league hit had come in the fifth inning, when he hit a two-run single.
With a 7-5 lead, Gardenhire turned to Glen Perkins for the eighth, and Encarnacion led off with a home run. The Blue Jays put two more runners on against Perkins, but he escaped that jam, before Capps stranded Kelly Johnson on third base in the ninth, preserving his sixth save.
“A very exciting night here,” Gardenhire said. “Guys were into it. We were laughing and joking, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”