Blue Jays fall twice to Twins in frigid Minnesota
Toronto drops doubleheader 7-0 and 9-5 at Target Field
Minnesota scored three straight runs on wild pitches by the Toronto Blue Jays' Sergio Santos in the eighth inning, when the Twins walked eight times off three relievers in rallying for a 9-5 victory and a sweep of Thursday's day-night doubleheader.
Kyle Gibson threw eight scoreless innings as Minnesota won the opener 7-0. The Twins trailed 5-1 in the fifth of the night game after another lacklustre start by Mike Pelfrey.
Steve Delabar walked two batters starting the six-run eighth, setting up Santos (0-1) for trouble as manager John Gibbons called for his closer early. Santos walked all three batters he faces, loading the bases with one out when he put on pinch-hitter Trevor Plouffe. The Twins cut the lead to 5-4 when Josmil Pinto came home on a wild pitch.
Janssen Rehab Halted
The rehabilitation assignment for Toronto Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen has been halted because of lingering tightness in his lower back.
Janssen has been on the disabled list since the start of the season. He pitched for Class A Dunedin on Tuesday, but according to manager John Gibbons he didn't feel better afterward and was told to take a few days off from throwing.
Gibbons said before Thursday's doubleheader at Minnesota he didn't believe the right-hander had a setback. But the manager said Janssen has continued to experience discomfort.
Sergio Santos has handled the ninth-inning role in Janssen's absence.
Shortstop Jose Reyes is expected to rejoin the Blue Jays on Saturday at Cleveland. He strained his left hamstring in his first at-bat this season.
The collapse by the Blue Jays bullpen worsened from there.
Ball four by Santos to pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki was wild, too, allowing Chris Herrmann to score and tie the game. Santos threw another wild pitch to Brian Dozier, and pinch-runner Pedro Florimon raced home for the lead.
J.A. Happ relieved Santos, who took his first blown save in five chances this year, and walked two more. Then Jason Kubel broke open the game with a two-run single, the only hit of the inning.
Santos, who has been handling the ninth-inning role while Casey Janssen is on the disabled list with a strained back, threw only four of 16 pitches for strikes.
The previous time a team walked eight times in one inning was April 19, 1996, when Texas did so against Baltimore. The record of 11 was set by pitchers on the original Washington Senators against the New York Yankees on Sept. 11, 1949.
Casey Fien (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth for the victory.
Jose Bautista took over the AL lead with his sixth homer, a solo shot in the fifth inning that accelerated Pelfrey's exit. Bautista, who also walked and scored in the first, has gone deep 11 times in 14 games at the ballpark the Twins opened in 2010. That's the same number of homers Joe Mauer has here in 256 games.
Edwin Encarnacion had an RBI single and reached base four times for the Blue Jays. Toronto starter Dustin McGowan, like Pelfrey, failed to finish the fifth. But all that was forgotten with the wildness that came in the eighth.
The first game was played in 2 hours, 38 minutes, thanks to Gibson's command, and the Twins joked afterward they were ready to come back out for the next one in a half-hour. Instead, they waited nearly 3 1/2 hours for another lumbering start by Pelfrey.
After wintry weather forced postponement of Wednesday's game, workers scrambled all morning to melt snow and ice from the seating areas, and the grounds crew dried the warning track. The Twins even sent out a company-wide memo asking for help. Slush still sat along the edges of the plaza behind right field, and the highest seating level was closed off because it wasn't cleared in time, giving those customers an unexpected upgrade.
The announced paid attendance was just over 20,000 for both games, but the actual number of people present was half of that at most, much lower at night despite the downright balmy 42 sunny degrees at first pitch.
Pinto highlighted a five-run fifth inning in the first game against Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (1-3) with a two-run double, missing a grand slam by a few inches. Plouffe also had two RBIs. But the story of the game was Gibson.
Gibson (3-0) took the mound for the coldest start for an outdoor game in Twins history, 31 degrees, and breezed through a Blue Jays lineup that totalled 20 runs in the previous two games. He walked one, struck out four and scattered four singles. All he was missing was the ninth.
He lobbied for 10 more pitches, but 105 were plenty for the Twins. Gibson had a rough rookie year in 2013, but the 2009 first-round amateur draft pick has been the early stalwart of the rotation that stumbled through the first two turns. He lowered his ERA to 0.93.
"This early in the season we're not going to mess with that kid's arm. But that was a great performance," manager Ron Gardenhire said.