MLB: Blue Jays win on Pillar's RBI in ninth
TORONTO - Kevin Pillar might have had some regrets about his diving attempt on Kurt Suzuki's double in the top of the ninth that helped the Minnesota Twins tie the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.
But Pillar, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement in left field, did not have to wait long for redemption.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, he hit a soft liner to right that dropped for a single and scored pinch-runner Erik Kratz with the winning run in the Blue Jays' 5-4 victory over the Twins.
"Baseball is a weird game where you get a chance to make up for a mistake you made in the previous inning or earlier in the game," Pillar said. "And I was fortunate enough to make that happen."
With first baseman Edwin Encarnacion hitting a three-run homer in the first and shortstop Jose Reyes adding a solo blast in the fifth, the Blue Jays (39-26) snapped a string of two straight shutout losses .
Center fielder Danny Santana and second baseman Brian Dozier hit solo home runs to begin the game for the Twins (29-33), who have lost two in a row.
Right-hander Casey Janssen (1-0) pitched the ninth for the Blue Jays, seeking his 12th save, but he could not hold a 4-2 lead. He gave up a one-out single to designated hitter Kendrys Morales, his first hit in his first game with the Twins.
Janssen later yielded a double to Suzuki, the Twins catcher, with two outs that scored pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez to make it 4-3. Pillar felt that he could have caught Suzuki's ball.
"It's a tough read," he said. "I just erred on the side of being aggressive instead of being passive. It probably wasn't the right decision. But I feel like it's a catch I've made many times before."
Escobar tied the game with a bloop RBI double to left.
Twins right-hander Matt Guerrier (0-1) walked catcher Dioner Navarro to lead off the home ninth, and Kratz, also a catcher, ran for him.
"You walk the leadoff guy, you give yourself pretty much a mess and anything can happen after that," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
After center fielder Anthony Gose struck out, right-hander Casey Fien took over to face Reyes, who singled to push Kratz to second.
Pillar hit his single to right on a 1-2 count and Kratz beat the throw home.
"Kratz runs pretty good you know," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
"Basically, it was just being aggressive," Pillar said. "Once I swung and missed the first two times, I knew I had to let the ball travel a little bit more and see the pitch longer. It was a slider off the plate and I was able to mess with it somewhere; it feels good.
"Kratz is extremely underrated with his speed. It was kind of one of those balls that as a base runner you anticipate it getting down and on the replay it looked like he got a good jump."
Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey allowed home runs to the first two batters he faced, but they were the only runs he allowed through 5 1/3 innings. The right-handed knuckleballer gave up five hits and two walks while striking out three.
"I think the velocities were a little bit better (after the homers)," Dickey said. "The more aggressive I became, the better the results I started having."
Twins right-hander Ricky Nolasco allowed seven hits, including two home runs, and four runs in 5 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out six.
"I thought I had some pretty decent stuff tonight besides the couple of mistakes," Nolasco said.
Dickey retired 11 batters in a row before Twins left fielder Josh Willingham tripled to right center with one out in the sixth. Right fielder Oswaldo Arcia was hit by a pitch, a call that Dickey and questioned.
"I feel he intentionally tried to get struck by the baseball," Dickey said.
Morales walked to load the bases.
Right-hander Dustin McGowan came in from the bullpen to induce an inning-ending double play on his third pitch to third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who grounded a fastball to shortstop.
There were three home runs in the first inning, including two by the Twins on 3-2 pitches from Dickey. Santana opened the game with his second homer of the season, and Dozier followed with his 13th.
The Blue Jays answered in their first with a three-run homer by Encarnacion (No. 20) on a 1-1 slider. It followed a one-out single by left fielder Melky Cabrera and a walk by right fielder Jose Bautista.
"I threw him two good ones and then the third I just hung," Nolasco said of the home run pitch. "Most of the time you throw that pitch, that's what's going to happen."
Reyes led off the home fifth with his fourth home run of the season when he drove a 3-2 fastball to right field to put the Blue Jays ahead 4-2.
NOTES: 1B/DH Kendrys Morales, who was signed as a free agent on Sunday, started as the designated hitter for Monday's game. The Twins had said he would need a few days before he would be ready to play. ... Blue Jays CF Colby Rasmus (hamstring) is scheduled to join the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons this week to start a rehabilitation assignment. He has been on the disabled list since May 13. ... The Twins signed SS Nick Gordon, their first pick in last Thursday's draft, on Monday for $3.851 million on Monday. ... The Blue Jays have been in first place in the American League East for 18 consecutive days, their longest uninterrupted stretch alone in first since 1993 when they were first from June 24 until the season ended. ... RHP Kevin Correia (2-7, 6.11 earned-run average) will start Tuesday's game for the Twins against Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (5-2, 4.12 ERA).