Edwin Encarnacion's three-run homer in eighth brings Blue Jays back to beat Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins are stuck in quite a rut with less than a week to go before the postseason begins.

Edwin Encarnacion's three-run homer highlighted a four-run eighth inning for Toronto that lifted the Blue Jays to a 6-3 victory over the Twins on Friday night.

Minnesota clinched the AL Central title on Sept. 21 and has spent the last 10 days trying to get Joe Mauer, Jim Thome and the rest of the team healthy before Game 1 of the division series Wednesday. That hasn't made taking seven losses in their last eight games any easier.

"You can look at our record the last six or seven days and it's not very good," Carl Pavano said. "But I feel good that guys are getting healthy. ... You're just trying to get guys ready. Obviously winning the ballgame sets a little different tone than losing, but I think we know what we're capable of doing."

Encarnacion had three hits and four RBIs and has hit three homers in the first two games of the season's final series.

Pavano gave up two runs -- one earned -- and nine hits in seven innings for the Twins (93-67), who fell 1 1/2 games behind the Yankees for the best record in the AL. New York's game at Boston was rained out and rescheduled as part of a day-night doubleheader Saturday.

Normally reliable reliever Jesse Crain (1-1) gave up four runs on three hits in the eighth.

"You always like to feel good about yourself and your stuff as a pitcher and as a team," Pavano said. "I still feel great about our team. I felt better tonight as far as executing my pitches. I can't ask for much more."

Ricky Romero (14-9) gave up two runs on six hits with five strikeouts in eight innings and Lyle Overbay and John Buck each added three hits for the Blue Jays.

"Any time you can go out on top like that, definitely feels good," Romero said of his only start this year in which he did not walk a batter.

The Blue Jays (84-76) are finishing the season on a strong note with eight wins in their last nine games.

"We're very pleased with the season," manager Cito Gaston said. "I don't think anybody expected us to win this many games."

The Blue Jays led 6-2 to start the ninth, but Trevor Plouffe homered off Jason Frasor and the Twins had runners on the corners with two outs. Kevin Gregg got Danny Valencia to pop out to the catcher for his 37th save.

Toronto put on an incredible power-hitting display in the first game of the series, belting six home runs in a ballpark that has gained a reputation for being unfriendly to hitters. Jose Bautista and Encarnacion each hit a pair, and Toronto rolled to a 13-2 win.

But Pavano forced the heavy-hitting Blue Jays to play a rare game of small ball for seven innings, an encouraging sign for a Twins rotation that has been battered over the last week.

Twins pitchers had allowed at least 10 runs five times in the previous seven games, and Francisco Liriano, who will start Game 1 of the playoffs Wednesday, gave up five runs on three homers Thursday night.

Pavano, who will start Game 2, allowed 12 earned runs in nine innings over his previous two starts, and there were more than a few Twins fans getting a little nervous watching all the blowouts with the postseason right around the corner.

But Pavano breezed through the first six innings, giving up just an RBI single to Encarnacion in the fifth that made it 1-all. The right-hander wiggled out of a bases loaded, none-out jam in the seventh and escaped with just one unearned run when he struck out Bautista looking.

Crain took over in the eighth and gave up an RBI single to Buck before serving up just his second home run since May 18 when Encarnacion's drive just reached the seats in left field. Toronto has hit 254 homers this year, 47 more than second-place Boston.

"Swinging out of their shoes is kind of an understatement, actually," Pavano said. "But they've done it all year and it's been successful in helping them put up big numbers. Whether it's helped them as a team -- they're going home on Sunday."

Delmon Young had two hits, including a solo homer for the Twins. Mauer went 1 for 4 with an RBI in his first game at catcher since Sept. 19 because of a sore left knee.

"We'll be fine confidence-wise, but it's always nice to win ballgames," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Tonight was a good one. We had our chances. But yeah, you'd like to win ballgames. Always."

Game notes
Gaston is retiring at the end of this season, and Gardenhire said the team planned to honor him at some point this weekend. ... Twins RF Jason Kubel snapped an 0-for-13 slump with a single in the fifth. ... Thome played for the first time since Sept. 21 because of a sore back. He went 0 for 2. ... Blue Jays 2B Aaron Hill was a busy man in the field. The Twins grounded out to him nine times, and he also made a nifty turn of a double play.