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Twins 6, Blue Jays 3: Smallball, bullpen help Minnesota upend Toronto

This season, the Twins have been much more dependent on the home run.  For much of the middle of the season, it seemed that if nobody in the batting order hit a three-run homer, the team couldn't score.

Monday afternoon in Toronto, though, Minnesota returned - at least for one inning - to its small-ball ways.  Denard Span walked to lead off the game, and that pass was followed by five consecutive hits.  Joe Mauer drove in two runs with a single, following Nick Punto's heads-up play to take second after a single sent the outfield throw to third to try to nab Span.  Justin Morneau followed with an RBI single to drive home Mauer (killing an 0-19 stretch), Jason Kubel whacked a double to put two runners on, and Michael Cuddyer ended an 0-16 slump with a single that drove in Morneau.

When the dust had cleared (and Delmon Young had driven home Kubel with a groundout), the Twins led 5-0 before Toronto ever came to the plate.

Jeff Manship, given the big lead, struggled to mow through the Jays' hitters.  The rookie had to throw 104 pitches just to get into the fifth inning, and after he'd given up a homer, a double, and a single, his day finished short of the five innings required to get the win. Minnesota's bullpen, however, ensured that while Manship would go winless, the team would not.

Bobby Keppel allowed an infield hit to the first batter he faced, but that was all the Jays would get.  Keppel (two outs), Ron Mahay (two outs), Jesse Crain (four outs, including three strikeouts) and Matt Guerrier (three outs on just seven pitches) combined to retire the next 11 Jays batters and hand the game over to Joe Nathan, who closed out the save in 1-2-3 fashion.  That's fourteen straight batters retired to finish the game.  Nice work, bullpen.


The Twins' three stars for Labor Day:

3. Jesse Crain
Retired four consecutive batters, three of them on strikeouts, to bridge the gap between middle relief and the Twins endgame.

2. Joe Mauer
3-5 on the day, increasing his league-leading batting average to .369 and driving in two runs.

1. Jason Kubel
Laced a pair of doubles, the first of which drove in a run.

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