TORONTO (AP) — Stuck in the trainer’s room because of a bad back, Minnesota’s Brian Dozier watched most of Wednesday’s game on television, rather than from the dugout. What he saw gave him a new appreciation for Phil Hughes.
Hughes pitched seven shutout innings to win in Toronto for the first time in almost three years, Kendrys Morales got three more hits and the Twins beat the Blue Jays 7-2.
Hughes (7-2) struck out a season-high nine, walked none and allowed seven hits for his first victory at Rogers Centre since July 17, 2011, when he played for the New York Yankees. The right-hander is 7-1 with a 2.27 ERA in his past 10 starts.
“Nothing was straight,” Dozier said of Hughes. “In and out, spotting up, strike one almost every time. He gave everybody pretty good fits.”
The view from the center-field camera showed Dozier how much movement Hughes has on his pitches.
“I knew he had a lot of run to his ball, but I didn’t know he had that much until seeing it from behind,” Dozier said. “He was busting those righties in, just running them up and in, up and in. That’s what makes his cutter and curveball so effective.”
Josh Willingham had a two-run homer and Morales again contributed as Minnesota got a season-high 16 hits. Morales is 6 for 13 with three RBIs since making his Twins debut on Monday after sitting out the first part of the year.
“Pretty amazing,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It doesn’t look like he hasn’t played in a long time.”
Back-to-back singles by Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera gave the Blue Jays runners at the corners with nobody out in the sixth, but Hughes didn’t buckle, getting Jose Bautista to foul out before fanning Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind.
“That was huge, to be able to get Bautista, Encarnacion and Lind, all three of whom have given me a lot of trouble in the past,” Hughes said.
Willingham hit a two-out homer off rookie Marcus Stroman in the first as the Twins took a 2-0 lead in the opening inning for the third straight game.
Trevor Plouffe made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly in the sixth and the Twins added three more in the seventh against reliever Bobby Korecky. A pair of infield singles and a walk loaded the bases before Morales hit a three-run double.
The Blue Jays avoided their fourth shutout in five games with a pair of runs off Jared Burton in the eighth. Bautista hit an RBI double and scored on a single by pinch-hitter Dioner Navarro.
Casey Fien got the final four outs for his first save as the Twins improved to 12-6 against AL East opponents.
“It says a lot,” Hughes said. “This is a tough division to pitch in, especially on the road.”
Stroman (3-1) allowed three runs and nine hits in six innings to lose for the first time in three starts since joining Toronto’s rotation on May 31. He walked none and struck out four.
“Definitely didn’t have my best stuff,” Stroman said. “I was up in the zone a lot.”
Dozier left in the bottom of the fourth inning with a sore lower back. Already tight from playing two games on turf, Dozier was kneed in the back by shortstop Eduardo Nunez and fell heavily when the two collided while chasing Erik Kratz’s bloop double in the second.
Eduardo Escobar replaced Dozier, who leads the Twins with 14 home runs. The Twins are off Thursday before beginning a three-game series at Detroit on Friday, and Dozier said he expects to be ready.
NOTES: Reyes celebrated his 31st birthday. … Toronto recalled Korecky from Triple-A Buffalo before the game and optioned OF Kevin Pillar to Triple-A. Korecky was optioned back to Buffalo following the game as the Blue Jays recalled OF Darin Mastroianni. … The Twins optioned C Josmil Pinto to Triple-A and will make a corresponding move before Friday’s game at Detroit. … Minnesota OF Aaron Hicks is being sent home to Minnesota for tests on his right shoulder. … Twins RH Kyle Gibson (5-5) will face Tigers LH Drew Smyly (3-4) on Friday. … The Blue Jays begin a four-game series at Baltimore on Thursday. Toronto LH Mark Buehrle (10-2) faces Orioles RH Kevin Gausman (1-1).