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MIN@TOR: Drabek hurls seven dominant innings

TORONTO -- The moment Kyle Drabek had been waiting for since he was a little kid finally arrived Saturday afternoon.

Drabek picked up the first victory of his Major League career, and he managed to do it in dramatic fashion. The Blue Jays' right-hander carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning en route to a 6-1 victory over the Twins at Rogers Centre.

With his mom and sister watching from the stands, Drabek surrendered just one run while walking three and striking out seven. Only two of the 21 outs he recorded were hit in the air.

"This has been my dream since I was young -- to pitch in a professional game -- and I finally got that first win," said Drabek, who was presented with the game ball following the victory.

Drabek retired 15 of the first 17 batters he faced, with his only blemishes occurring on a pair of walks to Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

After retiring the first batter he faced in the sixth, Drabek surrendered a sharp single to left field off the bat of Minnesota's Denard Span. It was the only hit Drabek would allow.

While most pitchers like to claim they are unaware of how many hits the opposing team has during any given game, Drabek said he knew exactly what situation he was facing.

"Every time I'm in the dugout, I'm always looking around at what's going on," Drabek said. "There's always the hits and runs right next to the balls, strikes and outs, so I look at it every time. But when you get on the mound, you've got to still think about your plan for the hitters that are coming out, and you kind of forget about it."

Drabek's numbers are even more impressive when you consider that he struggled with his control throughout the game. He often fell behind in counts and threw just 54 of his 101 pitches for strikes.

Whenever the native of Texas got into trouble, though, he went back to the cut fastball and managed to pitch himself out of the jam. Blue Jays manager John Farrell said that, because of Drabek's raw abilities, he doesn't get overly concerned when the control isn't there.

"He's a power pitcher," Farrell said. "If he were a finesse and pinpoint control-type guy, it would be a little bit different. He is one of the few pitchers who -- not that you're looking to do this all of the time -- if he does fall behind, he still has the ability to challenge hitters in the zone and get outs in the strike zone rather than always looking to have a guy chase."

Drabek spent the majority of Spring Training talking about the need to remain calm on the mound. In the past, emotions have taken over if he was getting hit around or battling control problems.

That didn't appear to be much of an issue on Saturday afternoon. Whenever Drabek found himself getting into a little bit of trouble, veteran catcher Jose Molina walked to the mound to help ease the nerves.

There's still some work to be done in that area, but the rapport the battery mates had against Minnesota seemed to be working just fine.

"He's not easy, but I'll work on it," Molina said of calming Drabek down. "But you've got to give him credit; he's still young and he's still learning, and that's the main thing. When a guy's learning those little bumps, you're going to try and take it as easy as you can and not let it bother you."

Molina opened the scoring for the Blue Jays in the third inning off left-hander Francisco Liriano. Molina hit the first pitch he saw off the top of the wall and over the fence in left for a solo home run. It was the third home run hit by a Toronto catcher in just two games, following J.P. Arencibia's two-homer performance on Opening Night.

The following inning, Toronto added another solo shot. Third baseman Jayson Nix, playing in his first game with the Blue Jays, hit a home run deep into the left-center-field seats. Toronto now has six home runs after two games for the first time since 2000.

Liriano pitched into more trouble in the fifth. With one out, he walked Jose Bautista and surrendered a single to Adam Lind. Liriano was then removed from the game, but both runners scored on a pinch-hit, two-run double by outfielder Travis Snider.

Minnesota's No. 2 starter finished his 4 1/3 innings with four runs on four hits while walking five batters. He managed to throw just 44 of his 94 pitches for strikes.

"I had a tough time today with [my] mechanics, staying back," Liriano said. "I couldn't hit my spot and was all over the place. I just wasn't consistent throwing strikes. ... I made two mistakes trying to go in, but they ended up right over the middle. I wasn't happy with those two pitches."

The Blue Jays find themselves 2-0 for the 11th time in club history. Farrell remains undefeated in his rookie season as a Major League manager, but the dominating storyline after the game was Toronto's young right-hander.

Drabek entered this year's Spring Training looking to win one of the final two spots in Toronto's rotation. He only officially secured a starting job after No. 2 starter Brandon Morrow suffered a right elbow injury late in camp.

If Drabek keeps pitching the way he did against Minnesota, the Blue Jays would have an awfully tough time sending him down.

"He had his sinker, cutter and changeup -- everything going," Span said. "It was a guy we had never seen, so he was very impressive. You have to tip your hat to him."

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