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Jose Bautista hits 53rd and 54th homers to help Blue Jays crush Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Any pitcher, any ballpark, anywhere.

Nothing seems to be able to hold down Jose Bautista and the swing-from-your-heels Toronto Blue Jays this season, not even Francisco Liriano and spacious Target Field.

Bautista hit home runs No. 53 and 54, including a grand slam, and the Blue Jays went deep six times in a 13-2 victory over the stumbling Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.

Edwin Encarnacion hit two homers and Jose Molina and Travis Snider added long balls for the Jays, who swing with the ferocity of John Daly on the tee box of a par-5. They have hit 253 homers this season, the fourth-highest total in baseball history.

Their latest display of unbridled power came against the most difficult pitcher in the big leagues to hit a home run against and in the third-most difficult ballpark to hit one out.

"Balls have been flying out of any stadium for us all year long," said Bautista whose second homer went to right field, the first one this season that didn't go to either left or left-center.

Liriano (14-10) gave up five runs and six hits, including three of those homers, with six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings in his final start before the playoffs. The left-hander is scheduled to start Game 1 of the ALDS on Wednesday at Target Field.

The AL Central champions have lost six of their last seven games and missed a chance to tie the Rays and Yankees for the best record in the American League.

"It's a different atmosphere when you get to the playoffs, but it's not fun [right now]," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's not the way you want to go into it, pitching like this and getting beat around."

Bautista entered the night on an 0-for-20 skid, but had three hits and five RBIs. His mammoth grand slam landed in the third deck in left field some 428 feet from home plate and he added the solo homer to right in the ninth.

Bautista, whose previous career high for homers was 16, has nine multihomer games this year. He is the first player to hit 54 homers in a season since Alex Rodriguez in 2007.

"I never get tired of seeing them," Jays manager Cito Gaston said.

Casey Janssen (5-2) pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for the win.

Liriano led the league in fewest homers allowed -- with a minimum of 150 innings pitched -- giving up only six long balls all season before giving up three in less than six innings on Thursday. He was unavailable for comment after the game.

"Tough night," Gardenhire said. "Pitching, kind of the way it's been going over the last week or so. Frankie was not great."

And according to hittrackeronline.com, Target Field had allowed just 1.35 homers per game when the day began, third-fewest in the league behind Oakland's McAfee Coliseum (1.33) and Seattle's cavernous Safeco Field (1.22).

"If you hit it good, it's going to go," Bautista said. "So that's what happens."

Encarnacion got things started with a two-run homer to the opposite field in right and then gave Toronto a 3-0 lead with a 419-foot blast into the trees behind the center field fence in the fifth. It was just the sixth home run to clear the center field fence at Target Field this season.

Molina followed with a solo shot that just cleared the left field fence for Toronto's 250th homer of the season. Only the 1996 Baltimore Orioles (257), the 2005 Texas Rangers (260) and the 1997 Seattle Mariners (264) have hit more in one year.

Liriano, who left his previous start after three innings because of illness, has given up 15 earned runs in his last 19 1/3 innings, not an encouraging sign as the Twins get ready for the playoffs.

The entire pitching staff has been in a funk ever since they clinched the AL Central title on Sept. 21. The Twins have allowed at least 10 runs in five of their last seven games.

Joe Mauer went 0 for 4 as the designated hitter, returning from an 11-day absence because of an injured left knee that required a cortisone shot.

"If you're competitive at all, which we are very competitive, and you all know you go through things, but it's not fun," Gardenhire said. "It's not fun for anybody in here. It's something that does happen. These guys, we knew that coming in, they can do it with the best of them. But it's still not fun."

Game notes
Twins slugger Justin Morneau, who has not played since sustaining a concussion on July 7, took early batting practice. He ruled himself out for the ALDS but said he hoped to be ready if the team advances to the ALCS. ... It was Bautista's fourth career grand slam and second this season. ... Encarnacion had his sixth career multihomer game and second of the year. ... Twins SS J.J. Hardy, who has been bothered by a sore left knee and migraine headaches, played for just the second time in the last nine games. He went 0 for 4. ... Gardenhire said RHP Jon Rauch will not pitch this weekend because of a knee injury. Rauch had fluid drained and received a cortisone shot earlier Thursday.