Blackburn Solid, But Twins Lose Regular Season Finale, 2-1

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Blue Jays Defeat Twins In Regular Season Finale, 2-1

(Sports Network) – Adam Lind’s tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning sent Toronto to a 2-1 win over Minnesota in the regular season finale.

Marc Rzepczynski (4-4) allowed four hits and an unearned run over seven innings to get the win, while Shawn Camp secured his second save for the Blue Jays (85-77), who won nine of their final 11 contests.

Nick Blackburn (10-12), like his counterpart, fanned six batters over seven innings, but the AL Central champion Twins (94-68) were dealt another defeat in their struggles down the stretch. Minnesota lost eight of its final 10 games and is likely to host the Yankees in the Division Series. New York was on its way to losing in Boston this afternoon, which would give the Yankees the wild card spot and Tampa Bay the AL East crown.

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Blackburn Gets Start In Regular Season Finale

(Sports Network) - The American League Central champion Minnesota Twins will open the ALDS on Wednesday at Target Field. However, who they will be facing is still to be decided.

First things first, though. The Twins try to head into the postseason on a winning note this afternoon when they wrap up their regular season with the finale of a four-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Twins won for just the second time in nine games on Saturday, as Alexi Casilla singled home two runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, lifting Minnesota to a 5-4 win.

Casilla also singled in two runs in the fifth inning for the Twins, who rallied from a 4-1 deficit to snare the win. Minnesota's hopes for homefield advantage throughout the AL playoffs, though, were dashed when the New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox in the first game of a doubleheader at Fenway later in the day.

Minnesota will host the wild card winner in the postseason, which will either be the Tampa Bay Rays or Yankees.

The Twins trailed 4-3 heading to the ninth against Kevin Gregg (2-6), but Delmon Young led off with a double. The Toronto closer retired the next two batters before issuing walks to both Jason Kubel and Jose Morales. Casilla quickly took a pair of strikes, then worked the count full and fouled off a pair of pitches before grounding a base hit up the middle to plate a pair of runners and set off a wild celebration.

"I was battling him until I got the right pitch to hit and I hit it right up the middle and we got a 'W,'" said Casilla.

Young also drove in a run for Minnesota, which received four innings of one- hit relief from its bullpen after starter Brian Duensing allowed four runs on seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts in five innings. Matt Capps (2-0) picked up the win with a perfect ninth.

Shaun Marcum was in line for the win for Toronto after yielding three runs and five hits with no walks and four strikeouts in seven innings. Edwin Encarnacion became the seventh different Blue Jay to reach 20 home runs with a two-run shot and Vernon Wells also doubled in a run for Toronto, which lost for just the second time in its last 10 games.

"We have a good ballclub and Marcum pitched well," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. "We had some opportunities to drive in some runs. They had a big ninth inning and came back to win the ballgame."

Toronto has hit 255 home runs on the year, fourth best in major league history. While the Seattle Mariners' major league record of 264 is likely out of reach, the Blue Jays could move their way up the list, as they trail the 1996 Orioles (257) and 2005 Rangers (260).

Toronto has had 14 games with four or more homers, and has hit five-plus five times.

Hoping to keep the Jays in the yard this afternoon will be righty Nick Blackburn, who is 10-11 on the year with a 5.55 ERA. Blackburn, though, has lost two of his last three starts and was roughed up by Kansas City for eight runs and eight hits in just 4 1/3 innings his last time out.

Toronto, meanwhile, will hand the ball to Marc Rzepczynski, who has won his last two starts. He is 3-4 on the year with a 5.56 ERA.

Today's finale will also be the last game for Toronto skipper Cito Gaston, who will call it quits after 1,731 games as a manager -- all of them with the Blue Jays, spread across 21 years.

The Blue Jays have won five of eight meetings between these teams this year and have fared very well in Minneapolis as of late, having won nine of 10 games as the visitor in this series since the start of the 2008 season.

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Twins Walk Off With 5-4 Victory Over Blue Jays

(Sports Network) - Alexi Casilla singled home two runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, lifting the Minnesota Twins to a 5-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in the third of a four-game set at Target Field.

Casilla also singled in two runs in the fifth inning for the Twins, who rallied from a 4-1 deficit to win for just the second time in their last nine games. The victory also kept Minnesota alive for home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs.

The Twins trailed 4-3 heading to the ninth against Kevin Gregg (2-6), but Delmon Young led off with a double. The Toronto closer retired the next two batters before issuing walks to both Jason Kubel and Jose Morales. Casilla quickly took a pair of strikes, then worked the count full and fouled off a pair of pitches before grounding a base hit up the middle to plate a pair of runners and set off a wild celebration.

"I was battling him until I got the right pitch to hit and I hit it right up the middle and we got a 'W,'" said Casilla.

Young also drove in a run for Minnesota, which received four innings of one- hit relief from its bullpen after starter Brian Duensing allowed four runs on seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts in five innings. Matt Capps (2-0) picked up the win with a perfect ninth.

Shaun Marcum was in line for the win for Toronto after yielding three runs and five hits with no walks and four strikeouts in seven innings. Edwin Encarnacion became the seventh different Blue Jay to reach 20 home runs with a two-run shot and Vernon Wells also doubled in a run for Toronto, which lost for just the second time in its last 10 games.

"We have a good ballclub and Marcum pitched well," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston. "We had some opportunities to drive in some runs. They had a big ninth inning and came back to win the ballgame."

Toronto grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first. Yunel Escobar reached second on a one-out single and an error before Jose Bautista drew a walk. Wells then doubled down the left field line, scoring Escobar easily, but a perfect relay nailed Bautista at the plate.

Minnesota got the run back in the bottom of the inning when Orlando Hudson tripled with one out and scored on a grounder to short by Young, but the Jays went back ahead in the second as Encarnacion followed a single by John Buck with a drive over the wall in left-center field.

The Blue Jays loaded the bases in the fourth on a pair of singles and a walk, but came away with only one run when Jose Molina grounded into a double play.

Minnesota pulled within one in the home fifth. Kubel led off with a base hit and Morales doubled him to third before both runners scored on a bloop single by Casilla.

Game Notes

Young recorded his 46th double, one shy of the Twins record set by Justin Morneau in 2008...Encarnacion has homered in each game of the series and has four total in the three games...Bautista walked for the 100th time this season and became the 14th player in baseball history with at least 100 walks and 50 homers in the same season. Boston's David Ortiz and Philadelphia's Ryan Howard were the last to accomplish the feat in 2006...Toronto has 255 homers this season, two shy of the third-most in baseball history. The 1996 Baltimore Orioles hit 257. The 1997 Seattle Mariners have the most with 264 and the 2005 Texas Rangers hit 260.

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Twins Look To Stop Latest Slide

(Sports Network) - Brian Duensing makes his final start before the postseason this afternoon when the Minnesota Twins continue their four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays at Target Field.

Duensing, who will take the ball in Game 3 of next week's ALDS, has been tremendous for the Twins since joining the rotation, going 7-2 with a 2.79 earned run average in 12 starts. He is 10-3 overall on the year with a 2.44 ERA in 52 games.

He had a three-start winning streak stopped on Sunday in Detroit, as the Tigers reached him for five runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. Duensing has given up just 10 home runs all season, but two came in his last outing and five have been hit in his last seven outings.

Duensing has faced the Blue Jays twice (one start) and has yet to record a decision, but has pitched to a 4.26 ERA in those outings.

The left-handed Duensing will be given the task of righting the Twins' ship, as the team has dropped two straight to open this set and seven of their last eight overall. On Friday, Edwin Encarnacion's three-run homer capped a four- run eighth inning that carried Toronto to a 6-3 win.

Ricky Romero (14-9) was sharp through eight innings, giving up two runs on six hits without walking a batter and striking out five to earn the win for the Blue Jays, who have taken the first two games of the series and eight of their last nine.

Jesse Crain (1-1) suffered the loss after allowing the decisive runs for the Twins. Carl Pavano left in a 2-2 game after seven innings during which he allowed one earned run on nine hits and a walk while striking out three.

"I got myself into some trouble and I got myself out of some trouble against a lineup that has been putting up some big numbers with people on base," Pavano said. "It's unfortunate that we lost the ball game because it was a good game."

Today, Toronto will hand the ball to righty Shaun Marcum, who is 13-8 with a 3.63 ERA. Marcum beat the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, as he allowed just an unearned run in seven innings to win for the second time in his last three decisions.

Marcum beat the Twins the last time he faced them and is 2-1 with a3.46 ERA in four starts against them.

The Blue Jays have won five of seven meetings between these teams this year and have fared very well in Minneapolis as of late, having won eight of nine games as the visitor in this series since the start of the 2008 season.

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Crain Implodes, Blue Jays Capitalize For 6-3 Victory

(Sports Network) – Edwin Encarnacion’s three-run homer capped a four-run eighth inning that carried Toronto past Minnesota, 6-3, in the continuation of a season-ending four-game set.

Ricky Romero (14-9) was sharp through eight innings, giving up two runs on six hits without walking a batter and striking out five to earn the win for the Blue Jays, who have taken the first two games of the series and eight of their last nine.

Encarnacion finished 3-for-4 with four RBI while John Buck and Lyle Overbay each had three hits for Toronto, which leads the season series, 5-2.

Jesse Crain (1-1) suffered the loss after allowing the decisive runs for the Twins, who are skidding toward the post-season by losing seven of their last eight.

Carl Pavano left in a 2-2 game after seven innings during which he allowed one earned run on nine hits and a walk while striking out three.

“I got myself into some trouble and I got myself out of some trouble against a lineup that has been putting up some big numbers with people on base,” Pavano said. “It’s unfortunate that we lost the ballgame because it was a good game.”

Crain took over and walked Vernon Wells to start the eighth. Overbay followed with a single and after setting down the next two hitters, Crain could not get out of the frame unscathed.

Buck laced a line drive single to left that plated Wells to give the Jays their first lead. Encarnacion followed with his long ball, his third in two games, that just cleared the wall in left to give Toronto a four-run cushion.

“We’re very pleased,” said Toronto skipper Cito Gaston when asked to reflect on the season. “I don’t think anybody expected us to win this many games. The way the kids have pitched and the way the guys have hit a lot of home runs, we pretty much live and die by the home run, it has been a good season for us.”

Down to their last out, the Twins got a home run from Trevor Plouffe, the second of his big league career, to make it a 6-3 game.

Michael Cuddyer followed with a double and moved to third on a Jason Kubel base hit that chased Jason Frasor from the hill.

Kevin Gregg came on and put an end to the rally by getting Danny Valencia to pop up to earn his 37th save.

Delmon Young led off the home second with a home run to left-center field to give the hosts the early advantage.

With one out in the fourth, Jose Bautista singled and moved to third on Wells’ ground-rule double, but didn’t score after Overbay tapped back to the mound and Aaron Hill grounded out to end the frame.

The Jays, though, did score in the fifth on an Encarnacion base hit that plated Adam Lind, who had led off with a double.

Minnesota regained the lead in the sixth on a Joe Mauer single that scored Denard Span, but the Jays answered in the next half inning with a run on a Yunel Escobar double play grounder that brought Buck home to tie the game.

Game Notes

The Blue Jays have taken the season series from the Twins in each of the last five years…Encarnacion’s home run was the Jays’ 254th of the season, three shy of the 1996 Baltimore Orioles for third most all-time…Romero became the first Toronto left-hander to top 203 innings pitched since David Wells in 2000…Travis Snider went 0-for-5 for the Jays and lost a 12-game hit streak…11 of Lind’s last 19 hits have been for extra bases…Former Twins second baseman and Hall of Famer Rod Carew celebrated his 65th birthday on Friday.

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Twins Look To Even Series With Blue Jays

(Sports Network) - Seeking to regain some momentum for the upcoming American League Playoffs, the Minnesota Twins continue a four-game series with the heavy-hitting Toronto Blue Jays tonight at Target Field.

The Twins have been in a rut ever since clinching the AL Central title with a 6-4 victory over Cleveland on September 21. The club has lost six of its past seven games and has received some awful pitching during that stretch, having surrendered 10 runs or more in five of those six defeats.

Carl Pavano was responsible for one of those poor outings, with the usually- steady veteran tagged for seven runs and 11 hits -- three of which were homers -- in just four innings in a no-decision at Detroit last Saturday. He also served up three long balls in a September 16 victory over the White Sox, a game in which he surrendered five runs in five frames.

Pavano has been good more often than not for the Twins this year, however, having compiled a 17-11 record with a 3.83 ERA in 31 starts. Minnesota's Game 2 starter for next week's AL Division Series, the right-hander can match a career high for wins set with Florida in 2004 in tonight's tilt.

The 34-year-old is just 3-5 with a 6.47 ERA in 11 career encounters with the Blue Jays, though, and has been reached for 12 runs and 18 hits in a combined 10 1/3 innings over two previous starts against Toronto this season, one a loss and the other a no-decision.

Pavano gave up five homers in those two appearances and faces a Blue Jays club that leads all of baseball with a franchise-record 253 round-trippers. Toronto belted six more in last night's 13-2 shellacking of the Twins, with major league home run leader Jose Bautista adding two more to his impressive total.

Bautista socked a grand slam in the seventh inning and added a solo shot in his final at-bat to give him 54 homers on the year, the most in a season since the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez had the same amount in 2007.

"I've made some changes to my approach," said Bautista, who had never hit more than 16 homers in a season prior to 2010, in explaining his breakout year. "I started getting ready earlier in the pitcher's delivery and that has allowed me to pick up the ball better and lay off bad pitches."

Edwin Encarnacion also homered twice for Toronto as part of a 3-for-4, three- RBI night, with Travis Snider and Jose Molina also going deep in the rout. Snider finished with three hits and two RBI to help the Jays prevail for the seventh time in eight games.

Making his final start in preparation for Wednesday's Game 1 of the ALDS, Minnesota's Francisco Liriano (14-10) was rocked for five runs and allowed three of Toronto's six homers before exiting after 5 1/3 innings.

The Twins mustered only four hits total on the evening, with 2009 AL MVP Joe Mauer going 0-for-4 as the designated hitter in his first action since September 19. The All-Star catcher had been sidelined with inflammation in his left knee.

Thursday's loss kept the Twins one game behind AL East co-leaders Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees in the race for the best record in the Junior Circuit.

"Every team goes through one of these [losing stretches], we just happen to be going through ours now,' said Minnesota catcher Drew Butera. "It's just one of those things."

Ricky Romero will try to keep the Twins down and establish a career high for wins when the Toronto hurler takes the mound tonight. The young lefty is 13-9 with a respectable 3.79 ERA in 31 starts for the year and comes in having won six of his past eight decisions.

Romero was a bit shaky in his most recent assignment, though, walking five batters and allowing three runs in five innings while not factoring in the decision of last Saturday's game against Baltimore.

The former first-round pick also posted a 13-9 record during his rookie campaign of 2009 and faced the Twins twice that season, going 1-0 with a 3.07 ERA in those contests.

The Blue Jays have won four of six meetings between these teams this year and have fared very well in Minneapolis as of late, having won seven of eight games as the visitor in this series since the start of the 2008 season.

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Liriano Rocked As Twins Fall To Blue Jays, 13-2

(Sports Network) – Jose Bautista hit his 53rd and 54th home runs of the year, one for a grand slam, and the Blue Jays continued their season-long home run binge with six in a 13-2 rout of Minnesota.

Edwin Encarnacion hit two home runs and drove in three, Travis Snider clubbed a two-run shot and Jose Molina added a solo blast. A John Buck RBI double in the sixth and Mike McCoy’s run-scoring base hit in the ninth were the only runs not scored via the longball for Toronto, which has a major-league best 253 home runs.

Toronto had already set a franchise record for home runs in a season its last time out in finishing up a series win against the Yankees. Thursday’s performance placed the club fourth in MLB annals for home runs in a single season behind only the 1997 Mariners (264), 2005 Rangers (260) and 1996 Orioles (257).

Bautista, meanwhile, keeps adding to an already impressive 2010 resume. In addition to leading the majors in home runs, his five RBI gave him 124 on the year — second only to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (126), who has been shut down for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury.

The AL Central champion Twins have three games left in this season-ending four-game set and trail both Tampa Bay and New York by a game in the battle for the best overall record in the Junior Circuit.

Encarnacion started the fireworks with a two-run homer in the second, then led off the fifth with his 18th of the season. That was followed by Molina’s home run to make it a 4-0 game.

Drew Butera got one back for the hosts with an RBI single in the bottom half, but Bautista started the sixth with a base hit and was quickly home on Buck’s double to left that chased Twins starter Francisco Liriano (14-10).

Liriano was charged with five runs on six hits with a walk and six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. Michael Cuddyer tripled in a run in the sixth to make it 5-2, but the Jays poured on eight more runs in the final three frames.

Alex Burnett loaded the bases with one out in the seventh and Pat Neshek was called upon to handle Bautista, who worked the count to 3-1 before crushing a changeup deep to left into the second deck at Target Field.

Snider belted out a two-run shot in the eighth and Bautista led off the ninth with a home run to right. Toronto went on to load the bases later in the inning and McCoy’s RBI single put the finishing touches on a 13-hit effort for the visitors.

Game Notes

Snider is riding a career-high 12-game hitting streak and hit his 14th homer of the season…Toronto’s Shawn Hill lasted 4 2/3 and gave up a run on three hits in his fourth start of the season…Casey Janssen (5-2) got the win for tossing 1 1/3 innings of spotless relief…Liriano, who was tabbed to start Game 1 of the ALDS, was making his final start of the season…Joe Mauer returned to the Twins’ lineup and went 0-for-4. The 2009 AL MVP hadn’t played since September 19 due to inflammation in his left knee…The triple was Cuddyer’s fifth of the year.

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Twins, Blue Jays Get Together For Final Regular Season Series of 2010

(Sports Network) - The Minnesota Twins return to Target Field tonight for their final series of the regular season. They would like to stay there for as long as possible during the upcoming American League Playoffs.

With home-field advantage for the opening two rounds of the postseason still a possibility, the Twins play the first of four straight matchups with the Toronto Blue Jays tonight in Minneapolis.

The AL Central champion Twins enter this set one game behind East-leading Tampa Bay in the battle for the best overall record in the Junior Circuit. Minnesota will host either the Rays or the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the AL Division Series, which begins next Wednesday.

Manager Ron Gardenhire has already tabbed Francisco Liriano as his starting pitcher for the ALDS opener, and the left-hander will make a final tuneup for that start tonight. He'll also be seeking to rebound from a pair of subpar showings in his last two outings.

Liriano was tagged for five runs in five innings of a home setback to Oakland on September 19, then was pulled after only three frames in last Friday's tilt at Detroit. The 26-year-old had allowed two runs and four hits before exiting and wound up with the loss in a 10-1 Tigers' rout.

Prior to the Oakland game, Liriano had ripped off eight straight winning decisions in a span of 11 starts, and he's 14-9 with a solid 3.48 earned run average in 30 assignments for the year.

The native Dominican has faced the Blue Jays just twice during his career and only once as a starter. That lone start took place at the Metrodome on April 16, 2009, with Liriano permitting two runs -- one earned -- over six innings in a tough-luck defeat.

He'll be hoping to have Joe Mauer back in the lineup tonight. The 2009 AL MVP has not played since September 19 due to inflammation in his left knee, but is expected to serve as the designated hitter for this evening's opener.

The Twins have struggled during Mauer's absence, having lost a season-high five straight games to begin their just-completed road trip before salvaging Wednesday's finale with a 4-2 decision over Kansas City.

Minnesota trailed the Royals 2-0 after five innings before putting up a pair of runs in the sixth, then went ahead on Delmon Young's solo homer in the top of the seventh. Young extended the margin in his next at-bat, delivering an RBI single in the ninth.

The Twins were able to avoid being swept in back-to-back series for the first time since July 8-13, 2003.

"We needed to turn things around, but as long as we're in the playoffs no one's going to remember this [losing streak]," said Young.

Matt Guerrier (5-7) picked up the victory with 1 2/3 perfect innings in relief of starter Scott Baker, who struck out nine Kansas City hitters and surrendered two runs over the first five frames.

The Blue Jays come in having won six of their last seven contests and just took two of three bouts from the playoff-bound Yankees to complete a 7-2 homestand. Toronto won Wednesday's rubber match by an 8-4 score, receiving home runs from John Buck, Aaron Hill and Travis Snider on the night.

The three long balls give the Blue Jays a major league-best 247 on the season, a new franchise record. The win also moved the club to 82-76 overall, ensuring Toronto its fourth winning campaign in the last five years.

Hill belted a three-run shot in the bottom of the fifth inning to give the Jays a commanding 7-0 lead and added an RBI single later on. Snider finished with two hits and knocked in a pair of runs to help young pitcher Brett Cecil obtain his 15th win of 2010.

Cecil (15-7) lasted 5 1/3 innings in his final start of the year, giving up three runs on nine hits in a 92-pitch stint.

Wednesday's clash was the final one at home for Toronto, and the team paid tribute to outgoing manager Cito Gaston with a pre-game ceremony. Gaston, who will retire at season's end, spent two tours of duty as the Blue Jays' skipper and guided the organization to its only two World Series championships in 1992 and 1993.

"You could just feel the electricity," said Buck of the event. "I think it's kind of like what they said is, that's how much Cito's meant to this organization and this team, and all the players he's either managed, coached or played with, obviously says a lot for him."

Toronto now hits the road and will send out Shawn Hill to oppose Liriano this evening. The oft-injured righty makes his fourth start since being called up from Triple-A Las Vegas earlier this month.

After losing his first two times out following the promotion, Hill fired five shutout innings and struck out seven batters against Seattle on September 23 to collect his first major league win since April 10, 2009, while then a member of San Diego. The Ontario native made just three starts for the Padres last season before undergoing the second elbow ligament replacement surgery of his career.

The 29-year-old, who went 6-2 with a 1.61 ERA in 11 minor league starts while rehabbing the injury prior to being brought up, has pitched just once previously against Minnesota. That took place in 2008 while then with the Washington Nationals and wasn't a pleasant experience, as he was tagged for seven runs (six earned) and 10 hits in just 3 2/3 innings to take the loss.

The Blue Jays have won three of five meetings between these teams this year, all of which were held at the Rogers Centre. Toronto has also fared well in Minneapolis over the previous two seasons, having won six of seven games as the visitor in this series during that time frame.

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