Henderson Alvarez pitched seven strong innings to win his third straight start for the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-2 over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.
Alvarez (3-2) stretched his scoreless streak to 17 innings before second baseman Kelly Johnson's throwing error allowed the Twins to score in the third. Josh Willingham hit a home run in the sixth, but the 22-year-old Venezuelan didn't give up any more than that. He allowed seven hits and three walks while striking out two, and one of those runs was unearned.
Yunel Escobar scored three times and hit four singles, and Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie each drove in two runs against Jason Marquis (2-2), the second veteran Twins starter in two nights to complete only four innings _ following Carl Pavano's early exit.
Marquis allowed seven hits and six runs _ five earned _ while walking three and striking out two.
The Twins watched their majors-worst record fall to 8-23, and this was another wince-worthy performance. No sequence was more exemplary of a sputtering team than in the fourth inning, when Encarnacion hit a seemingly harmless two-out pop-up in front of the plate with two runners on.
Catcher Ryan Doumit never saw it, as if the ball were lost in the faded beige roof the Twins used to play under at the Metrodome before they moved to the open air at Target Field. Marquis crept forward, looking like he figured Doumit would take it _ until realizing otherwise. Marquis hustled toward the ball was close to position for the catch until hesitating at the last second, when third baseman Trevor Plouffe appeared to call him off.
The ball fell between them and bounced on the grass as Escobar raced home to stretch the lead to 6-1.
The Twins have made a flurry of roster moves in the last 10 days, sending third baseman Danny Valencia and taking lefty Francisco Liriano out of the rotation most recently, prompting manager Ron Gardenhire to sum the decisions up like this: "We need some life in here."
They didn't show much of that while Alvarez was on the mound.
Coming off his first career shutout last week against the Los Angeles Angels, Alvarez got the Twins to hit ground ball after ground ball just when he needed it. They hit into three double plays and almost had a fourth, but Johnson's wild relay after the shortstop Escobar bobbled a grounder hit right at him wiped that one out.
Alvarez helped himself, too, on a scorcher sent back to the mound by Doumit in the second. Alvarez reached down to grab it like a hockey goalie in one smooth scoop and turned to throw for the out as Doumit tossed his bat toward the dugout in frustration.
The Blue Jays showed plenty of hustle behind Alvarez in the field and on the bases. Jose Bautista's bullet of a throw from right field got a runner trying to go from corner to corner after a single and a throwing error in the second.
NOTES: The Blue Jays have won 11 of their last 13 games against the Twins, dating to 2010. ... Blue Jays manager John Farrell said he liked the way new closer Casey Janssen pitched in notching his first save the night before. "He did what we expect him to do, and that was to go out and pitch with that intent and that energy," Farrell said. ... Twins RH P.J. Walters, the latest reinforcement from Triple-A Rochester to join the rotation, will start Saturday night. He said his family was scrambling to make travel arrangements to watch his debut. LF Darin Mastroianni, the other call-up in the latest set of moves, will have to wait a little bit for his loved ones to arrive. His younger brother is graduating from Brevard College in North Carolina this weekend. "That kind of supersedes this, with Mother's Day coming up," Mastroianni said. ... Liriano said before the game the team's plan is for him to pitch in relief a couple of times before returning to the rotation. "I've been there before so I have to go out there and try to do my job. I'm happy to be here and try to do anything to help the team win some ballgames."