Twins take rubber game from Blue Jays 5-1 as Santana homers again

TORONTO – Something must have been wrong with the pink bats the Twins and Blue Jays used to celebrate Mother's Day on Sunday. For the first 90 minutes, only Carlos Santana's seemed to work.

Bailey Ober retired 19 of the 20 Blue Jays he faced, striking out 10 in a masterful 6⅓-inning performance. Toronto righthander Alek Manoah nearly equaled him — until Santana struck again. The veteran slugger broke the scoreless tie with his third homer in three games here, a three-run shot that helped earn the Twins a 5-1 victory at Rogers Centre.

"Carlos has been excellent. He's been a big part of our offense really coming alive," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He's hitting balls hard. He's feeling good. He's shooting line drives all over."

The victory, the Twins' 17th in 20 games, captured the three-game series, their sixth consecutive series victory. The last time they won six consecutive series was in August and September 2010.

"It's pretty cool. Seventeen out of 20, that's pretty cool to hear, especially the way we started [the season]," Ober said. "The belief right now is that we're in it, every single inning. Guys are really starting to believe in each other, that we can show up and win every day."

The starting pitching has had a lot to do with it. In the Twins' past 10 games, their starting pitcher has given up only 14 runs, a 2.16 ERA — and five of those runs came in Simeon Woods Richardson's start Saturday. The other nine? A 1.50 cumulative ERA, with seven of the starts lasting at least six innings.

"I feel like the first week of the [12-game] winning streak, we didn't do our job as much. The hitters were picking up the slack," Ober said. "I remember thinking to myself, 'What happens when the starting pitchers start picking up their end?' And the last week or so, it's been pretty good."

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BOXSCORE: Twins 5, Toronto 1

Ober (4-1) was better than pretty good, knifing through a Toronto lineup that scored 10 times a day earlier. He retired the first 11 batters he faced, then surrendered a line-drive single to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He shrugged it off and retired the next eight batters before reaching 104 pitches by striking out Daulton Varsho, matching his career high of 10 whiffs.

"Bailey was awesome. He was just fantastic," Baldelli said. "I told him, 'That's absolutely one of your best outings that I've ever seen,' and he's had a ton of great outings."

And Santana has had a ton of important hits lately. His homer Friday broke a tie in a game the Twins eventually won 3-2, and his three-run homer Saturday gave them a 7-1 lead the pitching staff couldn't hold. It's the second time this season he has homered in three consecutive games.

The Twins added two insurance runs in the eighth inning against reliever Erik Swanson, when Max Kepler extended his career-best 14-game hitting streak with a two-out, two-run double. It was Kepler's seventh double in eight games.

"We've had a chance to win, it feels like, every game for a while," Baldelli said of the Twins, still one-half game back of the first-place Cleveland Guardians in the American League Central. "Now we're riding three straight week of playing really good baseball, again and again."