In a season where little has gone according to plan, it’s perhaps no surprise that the Toronto Blue Jays have found some unlikely heroes.
It’s too early to put Todd Redmond alongside Munenori Kawasaki, but the right-hander earned some new fans Sunday in Toronto’s 11-5 win over the Minnesota Twins.
With the Jays needing to fill a hole in their starting rotation, the 28-year-old from St. Petersburg, Fla., did not give up a hit until one out in the fifth when Aaron Hicks, batting eighth in the Twins lineup, homered over the right-field fence with one on to tie the score at 2-2.
Redmond struck out four and walked three in five innings, with the Toronto offence striking back for four runs in the bottom of the fifth to give him a 6-2 lead.
“It’s still a dream come true just to be here,” said Redmond. “You’ve just got to take it one day at a time, one start at a time. And hopefully continue on.”
Colby Rasmus, Jose Reyes and Rajai Davis homered for Toronto, which outhit Minnesota 13-5 before 43,795 under a stuffy dome at Rogers Centre.
Redmond, earning his first career win in his second major league start, has probably earned another start for the Jays (43-45). His debut win — in his fifth career appearance — came after a 74-62 record in the minors that dates back to 2005.
It was a welcome shutdown performance after the first six games of a homestand had seen the Toronto starters post a 6.06 earned-run average.
“The ball was jumping out of his hand,” Twins first baseman Joe Mauer said of Redmond. “It was a tough day for us offensively.”
Redmond was 3-1 with a 5.06 ERA in six appearances for the triple-A Buffalo Bison before being called up by Toronto, which claimed him off waivers in March. His only previous major league start was last year for Cincinnati.
The Jays and Twins traded shutouts and victories in the first two games of the series with Toronto taking the opener 4-0 and Minnesota (37-48) winning the second game 6-0.
“If we’re going to win, we’ve got to score runs. That’s no secret,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “But you go through those stretches, whether it’s an individual or as a team, where hits are hard to come by, things like that. That’s when you’ve really got to have the good pitching. But we broke loose today.”
Toronto sent nine men to the plate in the fifth, scoring four runs on a pair of homers to jump into a 6-2 lead. There was another four-run outburst by the home side in the seventh.
“It was a game we had to have, to be honest with you,” said Gibbons. “We kind of approached it that way. The bullpen was pretty rested. And with a day off (Monday), we were either going to pitch good or turn it over to the bullpen. And he (Redmond) stepped up for us.
“And we swung the bats ... Runs were hard to come by (in recent games) but we swung it today.”
Sunday’s loss was the Twins’ seventh in eight games.
The Jays, who came into the game having won just four of their last 13 after reeling off 11 straight wins, have now won 10 of their last 13 against Minnesota.
Redmond (1-1), who has also made three appearances out of the Jays bullpen this season, became Toronto’s 13th starter this season. He now has the same number of wins this season as Josh Johnson, who is making US$13.75 million.
Minnesota had a man on third with no outs in the first inning thanks to a leadoff walk, stolen base and throwing error, but a strikeout and two popouts spared the Jays any damage.
“The key was getting out of that first inning without giving up a run,” said Gibbons.
Said Redmond: “After the first inning, I wasn’t really sure what I had but I was able to get the ball down, stay on top of the ball and keep my off-speed stuff for strikes.”
After walking the first batter he faced and having some trouble throwing strikes (only six of his first 16 pitches found the plate), Redmond regrouped to retire the next 11 before issuing a walk to Morneau, a native of New Westminster, B.C., in the fourth. A third walk cost him in the fifth, putting Clete Thomas on ahead of Hicks’ home run.
Redmond was followed by Aaron Loup, Dustin McGowan, Brett Cecil, Neil Wagner and Casey Janssen.
Rasmus, who came into the game leading all AL centre-fielders in home runs with 15, knocked in two runs with another blast to give Toronto a 2-0 lead in the fourth.
Reyes put Toronto ahead 3-2 with a leadoff homer in the fifth, his fourth home run of the season. Davis then hammered a ball into the second deck in left field, driving in Edwin Encarnacion and Mark DeRosa, who had walked and singled, respectively.
Davis said the offence was contagious.
“I’m watching Reyes jog around the bases. He looked like he was having fun,” said Davis. “I wanted to have fun too.”
That chased the Twins starter Scott Diamond. The 26-year-old left-hander from Guelph, Ont., lasted 4 2-3 innings in his 50th career major league appearance and start.
“It’s fun to return home, it’s fun to play in front of a crowd that knows you’re Canadian and is kind of hostile to you at the same time,” he said. “It kind of makes for a fun atmosphere, makes for a fun challenge. Sadly, I didn’t answer up to it today.”
Diamond (5-8) gave up six earned runs on eight hits, walking four and striking out one.
“He kind of unravelled from there,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said of Diamond after Reyes’ homer. “He just couldn’t make a pitch after the home run. Maybe he kind of let that home run leading off the bottom of the fifth get to him.
“They made us pay today, the put some really nice swings out there. They had some great at bats.”
Minnesota’s Trevor Plouffe also homered, off Cecil, in the eighth.
Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia, on his bobblehead day, went 1-for-3 with a walk, single and throwing error. He flied out to the warning track in the second and seventh and hit another long ball just foul in the fourth.
Sunday’s game wrapped up a seven-game (3-4) homestand for the Jays, who open a series Tuesday in Cleveland.