Blue Jays-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

There's something about playing in Minnesota that seems to bring out the best in the Toronto Blue Jays.

They'll try for a sixth straight victory at Target Field when they continue their four-game set with the major league-worst Twins on Friday night.

Yunel Escobar had four hits while Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie each drove in two runs as Toronto (18-14) beat Minnesota 6-2 on Thursday for its second straight win since a three-game skid.

The Blue Jays have won 13 of 15 at Minnesota since 2008, and have outscored the Twins 53-19 while going 7-1 all-time at Target Field.

Encarnacion is 2 for 26 in his last seven games overall, but he's batting .414 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in Toronto's eight contests at Target Field. Escobar is 11 for 21 (.524) in his last five games at Minnesota.

Toronto's latest victory in Minneapolis came hours after the team signed 37-year-old Vladimir Guerrero to a minor league contract. The veteran slugger batted .290 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs in 145 games for Baltimore in 2011.

"You never know if you can get lightning in a bottle,'' Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said.

After Henderson Alvarez tossed seven strong innings Thursday to win his third straight outing, the Blue Jays hope Friday's scheduled starter Kyle Drabek (2-3, 3.34 ERA) can avoid losing a fourth consecutive outing for the first time in his career.

The right-hander had allowed two or fewer earned runs in his first five starts before surrendering five and walking five in a season-low five innings of a 6-2 loss at Los Angeles on Saturday.

"Just couldn't seem to find the four-seam fastball," Drabek told the Blue Jays' official website. "It just needs to be fixed. ... That's pretty much the end of that."

In his only previous start versus Minnesota, Drabek allowed one run and struck out seven in seven innings of a 6-1 home victory April 2, 2011.

Like Drabek, Minnesota's Nick Blackburn (0-4, 6.84) will also try to avoid losing a fourth consecutive start. The right-hander allowed five runs in six innings of a 5-2 defeat at Seattle on Sunday. He yielded four of those runs in the first two innings.

Blackburn has for the most part fared better against the Blue Jays, going 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA in four career starts.

The Twins could use a solid outing out of Blackburn after starters Carl Pavano and Jason Marquis each lasted four innings in the Twins' last two contests. Josh Willingham hit his team-leading seventh homer Thursday for Minnesota (8-23), which has totaled 20 runs while losing eight of 10.

"It's not one's person's fault," Marquis said Thursday after losing his second consecutive outing. "It's a team effort, and we've got to get better at our jobs."

Willingham has homered in each of the last two games, and is 5 for 10 with three RBIs in his last three.

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