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Blue Jays-Twins Preview

AP - Sports

After mowing down a potent lineup to earn his first career shutout, Toronto Blue Jays starter Henderson Alvarez may have a good chance for another gem against the major league-worst Minnesota Twins.

Alvarez looks to help the Blue Jays continue their recent domination of the Twins as the teams open a four-game set Thursday night at Target Field.

Five days after throwing six-plus innings of one-run ball in a 7-2 win over Seattle, Alvarez (2-2, 2.83 ERA) proved even more impressive in Friday's 4-0 road victory over the Los Angeles Angels. The 22-year-old right-hander went the distance, allowing six hits and a walk and throwing 71 of his 97 pitches for strikes.

"He's got confidence," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "Even if he's got two men on base, he's always a pitch away from slowing down any damage with a ground ball. We saw his overall composure last year in the 10 starts he made for us, and it continues right now."

Averaging just 2.6 strikeouts per nine innings, Alvarez must succeed by pitching to contact and relying on the defense behind him.

"I've always been a guy like that," Alvarez told the Blue Jays' official website. "I'm not going to make a lot of pitches, I'm going to be a guy that makes those guys swing the bat. There are going to be days when they're probably going to hit me, but I'm fine with that as long as I stay aggressive and make those guys swing the bat. That's my game plan."

Toronto (17-14), which outscored Minnesota 44-14 while taking five of six meetings last season, has won 25 of the last 32 matchups in this series including four in a row and 12 of 14 in the Twin Cities.

The Blue Jays bounced back from a three-game skid and salvaged a two-game split with Oakland with a 5-2 victory Wednesday. Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia all homered as Toronto improved to 3-3 on its 10-game road trip.

"One thing that this team repeatedly does, it puts behind them some adversity and they go out and put together another good game," Farrell said.

The Twins (8-22) are coming off their 13th loss in 16 games, falling 6-2 to the Angels on Wednesday.

Minnesota, which ranks last in the AL with 102 runs, moved starter Francisco Liriano to the bullpen and optioned struggling third baseman Danny Valencia to Triple-A Rochester in an attempt to shake up the club.

"We need to make some changes," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We need some hits. We need some new life in here, the whole package."

Minnesota tries to regroup behind Jason Marquis (2-1, 5.40), who suffered his first loss of the season in Saturday's 7-0 defeat at Seattle. The right-hander managed to limit the damage after issuing a career high-tying six walks, giving up two runs over six innings.

Marquis hasn't faced the Blue Jays since June 14, 2008, when he threw seven-plus innings of one-run ball for the Chicago Cubs in a 6-2 victory in Toronto.

Encarnacion is 8 for 16 with a pair of homers off Marquis.

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