TORONTO (AP) — Torii Hunter and the Minnesota Twins are glad to be leaving Toronto, home of the American League’s hottest team.
Edwin Encarnacion hit his 250th homer and Mark Buehrle earned his 30th career win against Minnesota as the Blue Jays beat the struggling Twins 9-3 Thursday night to complete a four-game sweep.
“There aren’t too many teams going to beat that team over there,” Hunter said of the Blue Jays, who added shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and left-hander David Price at the trade deadline. “They’ve got a great squad. The way they hit the ball is just unbelievable. When they hit the ball, it sounds like car crashes.”
Encarnacion went 3 for 4 with four RBIs and scored twice. The surging Blue Jays won their fifth straight and swept a four-game series from the Twins for the first time.
“We are very confident, no doubt about that,” manager John Gibbons said.
Toronto, which beat Minnesota 9-7 on Wednesday, scored nine runs in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Toronto leads the majors with 587 runs.
The Blue Jays have hit at least one home run in 18 of 19 games since the All-Star break.
Encarnacion hit an RBI double in the first, homered in the third, walked and scored in the fifth and doubled home a run in the sixth. He is 14 for 32 (.438) during a nine-game hitting streak.
Buehrle (12-5) allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings to win his third consecutive decision. He is 30-19 with a 3.68 ERA in 54 appearances against Minnesota.
Trevor Plouffe hit a two-run homer and Aaron Hicks had a solo shot for the Twins, who matched a season worst by losing their fifth straight. Minnesota is 5-14 since the All-Star break.
“We got demolished these four games,” Hunter said. “We got crushed.”
Still, Hunter figures the Twins won’t be the only team Toronto punishes before the season is out.
“I’m pretty sure that they can make a lot of teams look bad,” he said. “Those guys can really play.”
Now 54-54, the Twins are .500 for the first time since May 2, when they were 12-12.
“Right now, it doesn’t feel good at all,” manager Paul Molitor said. “It’s how you get there and we’re going the wrong way.”
Toronto is 4 1/2 games behind first-place New York in the AL East going into a three-game series at Yankee Stadium that begins Friday night. The teams play 13 times before the end of the season.
Already leading on Encarnacion’s first double, Toronto made it 2-0 with three straight singles off Kyle Gibson in the third, including Josh Donaldson’s RBI hit. After Jose Bautista grounded into a double play, Encarnacion hit a first-pitch homer, his 21st.
After Bautista made it 5-2 with an RBI double in the fifth, Minnesota intentionally walked Encarnacion to load the bases with one out. The strategy didn’t pay off, however, as Dioner Navarro hit a two-run single and Justin Smoak drove in another run to make it 8-2.
It was the major league-leading 39th time the Blue Jays had scored four or more times in an inning. They reached six runs or more for the 50th time, the highest total of any big league team.
Gibson (8-9), winless in four starts, matched his career worst by allowing eight runs. The right-hander gave up nine hits in 4 2-3 innings.
“He’s stepped up a lot of times for us,” Molitor said. “Today it just didn’t work out for him.”
CATCH OF THE DAY
Blue Jays CF Kevin Pillar made a leaping catch to retire Twins rookie Miguel Sano for the final out of the eighth. Pillar got a standing ovation as he jogged back to the dugout.
The Twins optioned RHP Tyler Duffey to Triple-A Rochester and designated C Eric Fryer for assignment. RHP A.J. Achter and C Chris Hermann will join the team in Cleveland on Friday.
Twins: LHP Tommy Milone (elbow) reported no pain after beginning a throwing program. Minnesota hopes Milone will be ready to return as soon as he is eligible on Aug. 16.
Blue Jays: C Russell Martin got the night off. Martin is expected to catch knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
Twins: RHP Mike Pelfrey (5-7, 3.65 ERA) will try to end a nine-start winless streak as he starts the opener of a three-game series in Cleveland. Pelfrey’s last victory came June 7 against Milwaukee, when he threw eight shutout innings, but he’s 0-5 since. RHP Cody Anderson (2-3, 3.38 ERA) starts for the Indians.
Blue Jays: Dickey (6-10, 4.06 ERA) has won his past three outings after going winless in the previous five. His opponent Friday night will be Yankees RHP Nathan Eovaldi (11-2, 4.30).
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