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Jays hand playoff-bound Twins 7th loss in 8 games

Toronto Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion hits his second home run of the baseball game off Minnesota Twins' Francisco Liriano in the fifth inning Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, in Minneapolis. Encarnacion hit a two-run home run in the second. Toronto Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion hits his second home run of the baseball game off Minnesota Twins' Francisco Liriano in the fifth inning Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, in Minneapolis. Encarnacion hit a two-run home run in the second. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
By Jon Krawczynski
AP Baseball Writer / October 1, 2010

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MINNEAPOLIS—Edwin Encarnacion's three-run homer highlighted a four-run eighth inning for Toronto that lifted the Blue Jays to a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

Encarnacion had three hits and four RBIs and has hit three homers in the first two games of the final series of the season.

Carl Pavano gave up two runs -- one earned -- and nine hits in seven innings for the Twins (93-67), who fell 1 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees for the best record in the AL.

Normally reliable reliever Jesse Crain (1-1) gave up four runs on three hits in the eighth and the AL Central champions have lost seven of eight with the playoffs less than a week away.

Ricky Romero (14-9) gave up two runs on six hits in eight innings and Lyle Overbay and John Buck each added three hits for the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays led 6-2 to start the ninth, but Trevor Plouffe homered off Jason Frasor and the Twins had runners on the corners with two outs. Kevin Gregg got Danny Valencia to pop out to the catcher for his 37th save.

Toronto put on an incredible power-hitting display in the first game of the series, belting six home runs in a ballpark that has gained a reputation for being unfriendly to hitters. Jose Bautista and Encarnacion each hit a pair, and Toronto rolled to a 13-2 win.

But Pavano forced the heavy-hitting Blue Jays to play a rare game of small ball for seven innings, an encouraging sign for a Twins rotation that has been battered over the last week.

Twins pitchers had allowed at least 10 runs five times in the previous seven games, and Francisco Liriano, who will start Game 1 of the division series Wednesday, gave up five runs on three homers Thursday night.

Pavano allowed 12 earned runs in nine innings over his previous two starts, and there were more than a few Twins fans getting a little nervous watching all the blowouts with the postseason right around the corner.

But Pavano breezed through the first six innings, giving up just an RBI single to Encarnacion in the fifth that made it 1-all. The right-hander wiggled out of a bases loaded, none-out jam in the seventh and escaped with just one unearned run when he struck out Bautista looking.

Crain took over in the eighth and gave up an RBI single to Buck before serving up just his second home run ball since May 18 when Encarnacion's drive just reached the seats in left field. Toronto has hit 254 homers this year, 47 more than second-place Boston.

Delmon Young had two hits, including a solo homer for the Twins. Joe Mauer went 1 for 4 with an RBI in his first game at catcher since Sept. 19 because of a sore left knee.

NOTES: Cito Gaston is retiring at the end of this season, and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said the team planned to honor him at some point this weekend. "He's a classy, classy guy," Gardenhire said. "One of the nicest guys you'll ever meet." ... Twins RF Jason Kubel snapped an 0-for-13 slump with a single in the fifth. ... Twins DH Jim Thome played for the first time since Sept. 21 because of a sore back. He went 0 for 2. ... Blue Jays 2B Aaron Hill was a busy man in the field. The Twins grounded out to him nine times, and he also made a nifty turn of a double play.

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