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Jays offence ignites in 15-8 win over Twins; Smoak, Martin each drive in five

TORONTO — Justin Smoak didn't know how long it had been since he recorded a hit with a runner in scoring position.

Luckily for him, that lengthy stretch — 0 for 29, to be exact — didn't matter much by the end of the night.

"It probably wasn't good, none of my numbers are good," Smoak said with a chuckle before a reporter told him the specifics.

"Really?" he replied. "Well it's not that way anymore I guess."

Smoak broke out of his slump with five runs-batted in as the Blue Jays' offence ignited for a 15-8 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday.

He got his RISP dry spell over with in his first at-bat, hitting a three-run blast in the second inning, then added a run-scoring base hit in the third as the Blue Jays (72-56) moved a game ahead of Boston for the AL East lead and ended a two-game slide.

Smoak, who hadn't started a game since Aug. 19, picked up his fifth RBI in the seventh, driving in Darwin Barney with a base hit for an 11-5 lead.

"Good for Smoaky, you know? He's got the right attitude but it's a tough attitude to have," manager John Gibbons said.

"He gets it. I've talked to him, especially with (Jose) Bautista coming back, he's going to DH a bit and that's really going to cut into his time. But he stepped up tonight, a lot of the guys did."

Russell Martin homered and added a bases-clearing double for a five-RBI night, Josh Donaldson had three RBIs in total, including two on his 30th homer of the season, and Barney, who moved up in the lineup in place of an ill Kevin Pillar, had a double, a single and a solo home run.

Kurt Suzuki had three RBIs for the Twins (49-79), Trevor Plouffe and Eddie Rosario each drove in a pair and Max Kepler had a sacrifice fly in the ninth.

Francisco Liriano (7-12), facing the team he spent his first seven seasons with, allowed four runs — three earned — over five innings. He also struck out seven and walked four while throwing just 59 of his 102 pitches for strikes.

"I was a little bit wild today but the team hit the ball well and we got the win," Liriano said through a translator. "It didn't go the way I wanted it to but the team hit the ball pretty well."

Pat Dean (1-4) lasted just three innings, allowing six runs on eight hits and a walk.

The Blue Jays scored five runs in the second, four in the sixth and five more in the seventh.

Plouffe gave the Twins an early 1-0 lead in the first inning with a two-out solo shot but Smoak's three run homer in the second put the Blue Jays on the board. Donaldson added to the barrage with a two-run homer three batters later.

A Plouffe sacrifice fly in the third cut into Toronto's lead, but Smoak responded again with a run-scoring single in the bottom of the frame.

Liriano ran into trouble in the fourth, walking two of the first three batters of the inning. Both came in to score on a Suzuki double to cut the Twins' deficit to 6-4.

Rosario hit a sac fly in the sixth, but Barney restored the two-run lead with a solo homer off Canadian Andrew Albers in the bottom of the inning. Martin made it a 10-5 game with his double off Pat Light later in the sixth.

It was the first career appearance at Rogers Centre for Albers, a native of North Battleford, Sask., who played triple-A ball for the Blue Jays last season.

"As a kid growing up, watching the 90's teams back when it was the SkyDome, you always dream of pitching here one day," he said. "Getting the opportunity to do that tonight was kind of a dream come true and it was a lot of fun."

Smoak and Donaldson hit RBI singles in the five-run seventh, Bautista scored on a force out from Edwin Encarnacion, and Martin hit a two-run blast for a 15-5 lead.

Minnesota added two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth.

NOTES: Pillar was a late scratch with flu-like symptoms.

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