In a spring training game that was overshadowed by rumours surrounding free agent starting pitcher Ervin Santana, the Blue Jays beat the Twins 4-3 behind solid pitching from Drew Hutchison, Esmil Rogers, and Kyle Drabek thanks to a Kenny Wilson walk-off triple in the bottom of the ninth.
Hutchison, who had an extra day of rest thanks to Thursday's rain out, came out firing, reaching 94-95 in the first inning and then struck out the side in the second. Hutchison's only trouble came in the top of the third, when Max Kepler singled and non-roster invitee Byron Buxton sent a breaking ball left up in the zone deep over the left field fence. Up to that point, when Hutchison missed, he missed down in the zone.
The young Hutchison should be happy with his performance, finishing up with five strikeouts and just one walk (and that walk came after a very close 2-2 pitch was called a ball).
Esmil Rogers was a little shaky coming out of the pen to relieve Hutchison, giving up two straight hits to Chris Parmelee and Josmil Pinto, but he gave himself some breathing room by striking out the next two hitters. He walked Max Kepler, but induced Eduardo Escobar to pop up to end the bases-loaded threat.
The Blue Jays got in flight in the bottom of the fourth, with Jose Bautista hitting his third spring homer around to around the same place where Buxton sent it, benefiting from a ball left up in the zone by Glen Perkins. The middle of the order then continued to show its might with an Edwin Encarnacion single followed by an Adam Lind RBI-double against the left-handed Perkins. Brett Lawrie singled to extend the Jays' rally but Melky Cabrera grounded into a double play to end the inning. The good thing is that Cabrera appears like he's running a lot better than he did in 2013.
Rogers was lucky in the sixth inning, giving up two hard-hit balls that were caught by two very nice plays by Tiny Jonathan Diaz at short and then Adam Lind at first. Rogers was lifted after three innings having given up just two hits while striking out four.
In the bottom of the sixth, Lind would slam a double off the wall against another lefty (Logan Darnell), probably one of his best days against southpaws in a long time. However, he almost made a crucial mistake in the next play. With Lind at second and Dan Johnson at third, Brett Lawrie hit a soft grounder to third. Johnson made a mistake in breaking for home and getting caught in a rundown. As Johnson was running back to third, Adam Lind briefly left the third base bag for some reason, but good thing he recovered the base before the Twins were able to tag them both out. Melky Cabrera, who ground into a double play in his last at bat, lined single to right to score Lind to give the Blue Jays a 3-2 lead.
Kyle Drabek did not have as many strikeouts as Rogers or Hutchison, but still had a decent outing today by throwing strikes and keeping batted balls on the ground. In his two-plus innings of work, Drabek allowed two "real" hits: a double by the red-hot Max Kepler and a single off the end of the bat by Chris Colabello. After the Colabello single, Chris Rahl hit a short bloop near the third base foul line that looked like it was about to bounce foul. However, Munenori Kawasaki ran in to try to glove the ball, but ended up knocking it down in fair territory to give Rahl an infield single and end Drabek's day.
John Gibbons called for John Stilson to come in with runners on first and second with nobody out in the top of the ninth.The first batter he faced, Jermaine Mitchell, singled to Moises Sierra in right field. As Colabello rounded third, Sierra launched the ball directly to catcher Erik Kratz, who unfortunately dropped the ball to allow the Twins to tie the game 3-3. Stilson stopped the late rally by striking out James Bresford and getting an inning-ending double play behind him on a nice play by second baseman Chris Getz, and shortstop Diaz.
Kratz, who dropped the ball that led to the tying run in the top of the ninth, singled against Trevor May to leadoff the bottom of the ninth. And then the hero of the day Kenny Wilson stepped up to the plate to triple to deep centre field, leading the Blue Jays to walk off the Twins.
Great game, overall. After the game, the Blue Jays announced that they have cut Liam Hendriks and Mickey Storey, reassigning them to minor league camp (minor league games start on Monday).
The Blue Jays will be facing the Houston Astros tomorrow in Kissimmee in a radio-only game, so expect most of the regulars to get a day off. R.A. Dickey will be taking the mound, looking to go four or five innings. Sean Nolin, Chad Jenkins, and Jeremy Jeffress will follow.
Now we wait for Ervin Santana to sign.