TORONTO (AP) — A pregame meeting couldn’t lift Minnesota’s slumping offense out of its recent malaise.
Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson hit solo home runs, Marco Estrada pitched 6 2-3 innings to win consecutive starts and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the struggling Twins 3-1 on Tuesday night.
Toronto’s sixth win in seven games moved the Blue Jays ahead of Minnesota and into the second AL wild-card spot.
The Twins have been held to one run in four of their past five games, losing all four. They are 5-12 since the All-Star break.
“A decent game except for the fact that our offensive struggles continue,” manager Paul Molitor said. “It’s been a rough trend for most of our guys as of late.”
Molitor tried to turn things around with a brief chat before batting practice, saying he wanted to take “a pulse” of his players.
“I wasn’t trying to do a Knute Rockne or anything,” Molitor said. “Just kind of get out there and make sure we understood where we’re at and what we still have an opportunity to accomplish.”
Even though the Twins didn’t stop their scoring drought, third baseman Trevor Plouffe said the team remains confident.
“The thing we’ve done great all year is not worry about what’s happened the day before so we’re not going to let it get to us now,” Plouffe said.
Donaldson and Tulowitzki both drilled second-deck homers off Twins right-hander Phil Hughes, who leads the majors with 27 home runs allowed this season. Colorado’s Kyle Kendrick has surrendered 26.
“Their top four are as good as any in baseball,” Hughes said of the Blue Jays. “They’re a tough group to navigate.”
The Blue Jays are undefeated in the six games Tulowitzki has started since last week’s trade from Colorado.
“It makes my job easier when I don’t have to try to do too much,” Tulowitzki said. “There’s a lot of guys who can come through and hit home runs at any point in time. I really haven’t had that in my career. Played with good players, not this many of them.”
Hughes (10-7) lost for the first time since June 8 against Kansas City, snapping a streak of six straight winning decisions. He allowed five hits and three runs in 5 2-3 innings.
“I was missing over the plate a lot with my cutter and my fastball,” Hughes said. “My changeup was probably my best pitch tonight, which I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say.”
Hughes walked two batters, just the second time this season he has walked more than one, and uncorked his first wild pitch of the season. Hughes also walked two on May 4, against Oakland.
Donaldson hit his 28th home run in the first, connecting on a 2-2 pitch. It’s the eighth time this season he’s homered on a two-strike count.
Donaldson has a 22-game hitting streak against the Twins. It’s baseball’s longest active streak for any player against an opponent.
“He’s had a very good year, an MVP-caliber year,” said bench coach DeMarlo Hale, who ran the team while manager John Gibbons served a one-game suspension.
Tulowitzki made it 2-0 with a leadoff shot in the third, his second since joining Toronto.
Torii Hunter’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly halved the deficit in the fourth, but Dioner Navarro chased Hughes and made it 3-1 with an RBI double in the sixth.
Estrada (9-6) left after Eddie Rosario’s double in the seventh but Mark Lowe got Aaron Hicks to fly out.
Aaron Sanchez worked the eighth and Roberto Osuna finished for his eighth save.
Gibbons was suspended for coming back on the field when the benches and bullpens cleared in the eighth inning of Sunday’s win over Kansas City. Gibbons had been ejected for arguing with home plate umpire Jim Wolf one inning earlier.
Sanchez was suspended three games for sparking the melee by throwing at Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar. Sanchez is appealing his penalty.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Molitor showed he hasn’t lost his sense of humor despite Minnesota’s recent offensive struggles. “I know we didn’t have a lot of chances because I didn’t put many signs on all night,” he said.
The Blue Jays have homered in 16 of 17 games since the All-Star break, and have nine multihomer games in that span.
Twins: RHP Tyler Duffey will make his major league debut in place of injured LHP Tommy Milone (elbow). Duffey went 6-8 with a 2.66 ERA in the minors, starting eight games at Double-A and 13 at Triple-A.
Blue Jays: Durability and consistency remain elusive for RHP Drew Hutchison (9-2, 5.42 ERA), who has won only once in five starts and hasn’t reached the seventh inning since June 6 against Houston.
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