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TOR@MIN: Alvarez hurls seven frames of two-run ball

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Blue Jays jumped ahead early on Thursday with two first-inning runs off Twins starter Jason Marquis and cruised to a 6-2 win.

Toronto picked up three more runs in the third inning thanks to some aggressive baserunning, timely hitting and multiple Minnesota miscues.

Eric Thames plated the first Blue Jays run in the first inning with a sacrifice fly. Brett Lawrie followed with an RBI double.

Staked to a 5-0 lead early, right-hander Henderson Alvarez pitched seven strong innings. He allowed two runs, one earned, struck out two and walked three.

"Tonight he'd give up a base hit but then they'd put the ball on the ground and we turned a number of double plays again. And really he kept control of the game," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "He might not have been as sharp as his last time out, but just a solid effort by him overall."

In Alvarez's last three starts, he's given up just two earned runs over 22 innings. He was coming off a start against the Angels in Anaheim in which he went the distance in a six-hit shutout.

Edwin Encarnacion extended Toronto's lead in the third inning with a little help from clumsy fielding. Encarnacion came to the plate with runners on first and second and reached on a fielder's choice when Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe fielded a grounder and threw to second for a putout. But Yunel Escobar rounded third and made a dash for the plate, sliding in safely before second baseman Alexi Casilla's relay made it home.

Lawrie took two bases on a third-inning passed ball that trickled toward the Twins dugout and got away from catcher Ryan Doumit.

"I thought we ran the bases outstanding tonight," Farrell said. "We took the extra bases when we had an opportunity. ... We played aggressively and, from the mound, we kept the game in check."

One of the more embarrassing moments of the game for the Twins came on a popup Doumit lost in the lights. Marquis called for the ball, but backed off and let it fall 15 feet from the plate. Escobar scored from second on the play and Encarnacion was credited with an RBI single to stretch the lead to 6-1.

"That's a routine play that has to be made to help out our pitcher," Doumit said of the misplayed popup. "When it rains it pours, and it's pouring right now."

The Blue Jays didn't waste offensive opportunities and Alvarez shut down Minnesota's lineup, which has sputtered lately. Alvarez had pitched 16 consecutive scoreless innings before the Twins got on the board in the third inning.

"Since his arrival at the Major League level, Henderson's pitched with a lot of poise, a lot of confidence," Farrell said before Thursday's game. "He's been able to pitch to contact and when he's given up hits, he doesn't shy away or run from contact again and [he's] been able to induce a number of ground balls that have turned into double plays."

The Blue Jays turned three double plays Thursday behind Alvarez. "He trusts his infielders, trusts his defense and we're able to keep the game crisp when he's on the mound," Farrell said.

"We've been outstanding on double plays all year -- it happened again tonight, getting that pitch when we need to and keeping the ball down," catcher J.P. Arencibia said. "He knows that he can throw that ball up there and miss spots and still get ground balls. I think he's mature beyond his age and he's getting better every start."

Alvarez spoke through an interpreter, coach Luis Rivera, after the game. "He trusts and uses his sinker a lot, especially with runners on base, that's the pitch he can usually get a double play with," Rivera said, "He knows he's got good defense behind him and they're making all the plays, so he's very confident that the guys behind him are going to continue to make the plays."

Luis Perez struck out two in a clean eighth inning and Jason Frasor retired the side in order in the ninth, including two strikeouts in a non-save situation.

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