TORONTO — Byron Buxton knew his teammates were paying extra close attention when he stepped to the plate for the final time Sunday.
He delivered with one more big swing.
Buxton homered three times and set a career high with five RBIs , powering the Minnesota Twins to a 7-2 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays.
“He’s got a lot of ways he can help you win games,” manager Paul Molitor said. “His legs, bunting, home runs, defense, arm. It’s fun to watch some of that talent start to flourish.”
Buxton had four hits, scored four runs and stole a base in his first career multihomer game. Kyle Gibson pitched into the seventh inning as Minnesota earned a rare series victory north of the border.
“He’s a pretty spectacular player,” Gibson said. “He’s really coming into his own now.”
Coming into the day, the Twins had a half-game lead over the Angels and Mariners in the race for the second AL wild card. Minnesota has won a major league-best 15 games since Aug. 6.
Nori Aoki homered for the Blue Jays, who have dropped seven of nine. Aoki went 3 for 4 with two RBIs.
Buxton hit an RBI single in the first. He reached on a fielder’s choice in the third and scored on Kennys Vargas’ two-run single. Then he chased Joe Biagini (3-9) with a two-out homer in the fourth.
Buxton opened the seventh with a second-deck drive off Matt Dermody and capped his afternoon with a first-pitch leadoff drive against Tim Mayza in the ninth.
“Everyone was kind of top-stepping it leading off that inning with the day that he was having,” Molitor said. “He didn’t make us wait very long.”
Buxton said his teammates were giving him “the eye” as he stepped to the plate for his final at bat, but insisted he wasn’t trying for a third home run.
“Not even close,” he said. “I had no intentions. I just went up there and was trying to have a quality at-bat.”
It was the eighth three-homer game in Twins history and the second this season. Eddie Rosario hit three homers in a 20-7 win over Seattle on June 13.
Buxton went 7 for 13 with seven RBIs in the series. Eight of his 13 home runs have come in August, including five in his past seven games.
“He’s got as much talent as anybody out there in the game,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Gibson (8-10) allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings, helping the Twins to their second series win in Toronto since 2005. Minnesota also took two of three at Rogers Centre in June 2014.
Promoted from Triple-A Buffalo to make his first major league start since July 2, Biagini allowed five runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. Biagini is 2-8 with a 6.02 ERA in 12 starts this season.
“The ball was definitely up in the zone, they barreled it pretty good,” Gibbons said.
Molitor enjoyed listening to the crack of the bat on all three Buxton homers.
“They all had a nice sound,” Molitor said. “You get a nice reverberation there where I stand. They were no-doubters.”
Ks FOR JAYS
Blue Jays pitchers recorded a season-best 17 strikeouts. It was the eighth time in team history they’ve struck out that many.
Twins: INF Miguel Sano (left shin) could see more time at designated hitter when he returns from the disabled list, Molitor said. Sano, who last played Aug. 19, has yet to resume baseball activities. He leads the Twins with 28 homers and 77 RBIs.
Blue Jays outfielders Jose Bautista and Kevin Pillar got the day off. … To open a roster spot for Biagnini, right-hander T.J. House was designated for assignment.
Twins: Following an off day, the Twins begin a three-game home series against the White Sox on Tuesday. RHP Ervin Santana (13-7, 3.24 ERA) starts for the Twins against RHP James Shields (2-4, 5.63 ERA). Santana is 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in four starts against the White Sox this season.
Blue Jays: RHP Marcus Stroman (11-6, 3.17 ERA) starts the opener of a three-game series against Boston on Monday night. Stroman is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox this season. LHP Drew Pomeranz (13-4, 3.18 ERA) starts for the Red Sox.
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