Alvarez tries to pitch Jays to fifth straight win in opener with Twins

Despite being just 22 years old and only owning a handful of major league starts, Henderson Alvarez pitched like a seasoned veteran last time out for the Blue Jays.

The youngster will hope to build off his first major league shutout this evening and pitch Toronto to a fifth straight victory in Minnesota in the opener of four-game series versus the Twins.

Alvarez went winless in his first four starts of the season (0-2), but has since won consecutive starts for the first time in his young career and tossed a six-hit shutout at the Angels last Friday. The right-hander needed only 97 pitches to complete the gem, walking one and fanning three.

Alvarez credited his sinkerball following his 11th quality start in 16 career outings, including five in six this season.

"My sinker was working with me tonight. The defense did a great job and we're always in the right position," Alvarez said. "This is the best game I have ever pitched."

Alvarez faces the Twins for the first time and goes up against a true veteran in 33-year-old Jason Marquis, who picked up his first loss of the season last time out.

Marquis went 2-0 over his first three starts of 2012 despite a 6.23 earned run average, but lost at Seattle on Saturday even though he gave up a season-low two runs. The right-hander had to limit damage after giving up four hits and six walks, but dropped a 7-0 decision to Felix Hernandez and the Mariners.

Marquis is 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in four career meetings with Toronto, including a pair of starts.

The Blue Jays continue their 10-game road trip in a city where they have had a lot of recent success. Toronto recorded a three-game sweep in its lone trip to Minnesota last season and has won 12 of the past 14 as the visitor in this series.

Toronto has split the first six contests of its swing after wrapping up a quick two-game series against Oakland on Wednesday with a 5-2 win. Brandon Morrow struck out 10 over six innings of one-run ball, while Casey Janssen worked a perfect ninth to nail down his first save of the season after taking over the closer role from the struggling Francisco Cordero.

"I tried to treat it like any other inning," Janssen told Toronto's official website. "My heart was going, but that's a good thing, and that's pretty normal. I know we had a little bit of a cushion there and I just wanted to attack the zone ... If they were going to get on base it was going to be because of a hit."

Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion and J.P. Arencibia all hit significant homers to help the Blue Jays snap a three-game slide. Lind's two-run shot came after he was dropped to eighth in the batting order, while Encarnacion snapped an 0- for-21 skid with his solo homer.

Arencibia's solo blast is part of a 16-game surge in which he is hitting .346 with a pair of homers and 11 RBI.

The Twins come into this series in a 2-7 funk and are an MLB-worst 8-22 on the season. They dropped the rubber match of a three-game series on Wednesday with the Angels by a 6-2 margin.

Carl Pavano lasted just four-plus innings for the Twins, getting touched for five runs -- four earned -- on 10 hits in his shortest outing of the season.

"I wasn't able to [execute] consistently and they got to me," Pavano said.

Minnesota scored in the fifth on Danny Valencia's RBI groundout and again in the sixth on Josh Willingham's solo homer.

Valencia was optioned to Triple-A Rochester following the game and lefty Matt Maloney was designated for assignment. The trio of Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll and Trevor Plouffe will split duties at third in place of Valencia.

P.J. Walters, meanwhile, will have his contract purchased and start on Saturday, with Francisco Liriano shifting to the bullpen.