MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Matt Stairs looked every bit his 39 years old when he slumped into a chair with an ice pack on one leg and the grimace that most 15-year veterans have after a game.
“Gotta sit down guys,” he told a group of reporters standing at his locker. “I’m a little tired.”
On the field, however, he’s hitting as though he’s 10 years younger.
Stairs hit Toronto’s third homer of the game in the eighth inning, a two-run shot that broke a tie and sent the Blue Jays to an 8-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.
Stairs signed in the offseason with the intention of being a reliable bat off the bench, but injuries to Lyle Overbay and Reed Johnson have thrust him into the lineup. Stairs is delivering—batting .304 with 12 home runs in 58 games.
Playing in Prince’s hometown on Monday night, Stairs is hitting like it’s 1999—he had 38 homers for the Athletics that season—and says he is loving life back home in Canada.
“The biggest thing is I feel very comfortable playing in Toronto,” Stairs said. “Back in my home country, and a great country it is. Everyone knows I’m a true Canadian and I take a lot of pride in it. It’s all about confidence.”
Stairs’ drive slammed off the scoreboard high above the big baggie in right field, ending reliever Matt Guerrier’s scoreless innings streak at 14 and giving Toronto a 7-5 lead.
“He doesn’t hit any cheapies,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “He’s having an unbelievable year, especially for coming in and not expecting any playing time. He hasn’t lost a beat.”
Guerrier (1-3) had not allowed a run in his previous 10 appearances, but gave up three runs and four hits in 1 1-3 innings.
“Bad time,” Guerrier said. “Wish it was a blowout game and I could’ve given up a couple runs then.”
The Blue Jays have 93 homers this season, second-best in the American League. Frank Thomas just missed hitting No. 500 of his career when center fielder Torii Hunter caught his fly ball before slamming into the wall.
Halladay (9-2) wasn’t at his best against the Twins, but took advantage of the run support his teammates gave him.
Halladay has been superb since coming off the disabled list on May 31 following an appendectomy. He entered the game 4-0 in five starts since the surgery and had allowed just six runs in his last 22 1-3 innings.
But he was ordinary against the Twins, who have been swinging the bats well since reigning AL MVP Justin Morneau was hospitalized on Friday with a bruised right lung after a collision at home plate against Florida.
Morneau missed his third straight game, but the Twins scored five runs on six hits in seven innings against Halladay, solid production considering the current roster entered the game 10-for-87 (.115) lifetime against the Blue Jays’ ace.
“The biggest thing is offensively we’ve really swung the bats well the last few games,” Halladay said. “It’s a nice feeling going out there knowing you don’t always have to be perfect and you can grind your way through some of those and we’re still going to find a way.”
Twins starter Kevin Slowey gave up five runs—four earned—and six hits in five innings for the Twins, including homers by Wells and Rios in the third that gave Toronto a 3-1 lead.
The Twins tied it with RBIs by Jason Kubel and Mike Redmond in the fourth before the Blue Jays got two more in the fifth, one on an RBI single from Wells, who had three RBIs and finished a triple shy of the cycle.
Redmond had two hits and two RBIs for the Twins.
“We scored some runs off a very good pitcher in Halladay and we gave ourselves a chance,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “What you’re seeing is we end up going to the bullpen a few too many times.”
Twins 2B Luis Castillo was injured when he slid into home on a wild pitch from Halladay in the fifth inning. Halladay inadvertantly stepped on Castillo’s hand. Castillo remained in the game, but Gardenhire pinch hit for him and said X-rays would be taken on Tuesday. … Wells’ homer was the 150th of his career, moving him ahead of Lloyd Moseby for fifth on the franchise list.