Punchless offense wastes a solid Twins debut by P.J. Walters
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MINNEAPOLIS -- P.J. Walters provided one of the better outings of the season for the Minnesota Twins, but the offense couldn't hold up its end of the bargain in a 2-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday night.
An offensive outage spoiled perhaps the best combined pitching performance the Twins have put forth this season -- six solid innings from Walters and three scoreless frames from the bullpen.
Making just his fifth career major league start (21st career appearance) and first with the Twins, Walters allowed only two earned runs on six hits while striking out five in six innings.
Walters doesn't throw particularly overpowering fastballs (87-89 mph fastball, cutter), but he mixed in a quality changeup (78 mph) and breaking ball to keep Blue Jays hitters off balance for most of the night.
The only damage was a two-out RBI single by Adam Lind that tied the game in the top of the fifth -- after Colby Rasmus doubled with two outs to set the table -- and a solo home run by Jose Bautista with two outs in the sixth that gave Toronto a 2-1 lead.
"I felt alright out there," Walters said. "Just a couple of two-out mistakes. ... I've got to do a better job of finishing the inning."
Perhaps. But in reality, Twins hitters need to do a better job driving in runs.
Trevor Plouffe, who stranded seven in Friday's game, drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk to put the Twins up 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, but that was all the offense they'd muster.
The Twins had a chance to tie the game in the sixth with runners on the corners and one out, but Ryan Doumit struck out swinging and Plouffe's chopper up the middle was deflected by pitcher Drew Hutchinson to shortstop Yunel Escobar, who threw to first for the force out.
Joe Mauer led off the eighth by just missing his second home run of the season -- a blast that bounced off the wall in left-center, resulting in a stand-up double. Two batters later, Doumit walked to set the table for Plouffe, who popped out to right. Pinch-hitter Alexi Casilla struck out swinging to end the inning.
"P.J. pitched a heck of a ballgame," said Chris Parmelee, who went 0-for-3 with three runners left on base. "We should have got the 'W.' ...
"We just need some of those timely hits."
Bautista's two-out home run in the sixth was the decisive blow, but it's fair to make the case that the inning should have been over two pitches earlier.
Walters got ahead of Bautista in the count 1-2 then threw an 87-mph cut fastball low and away -- a pitch that should have been called strike three, per MLB.com's K-zone. Instead, home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn ruled it ball two.
Two pitches later, Walters hung a slider and Bautista crushed it.
The ball was initially ruled a double, as it bounced off the shrub area and back onto the field. But the call was overturned after a video review.
"He seems to be on those pitches," manager Ron Gardenhire said of Bautista. "You make a mistake right now and he's hitting it really hard. That one hurt us, but we had plenty of opportunities.
"We had lots of chances out there with men in scoring position and to come up with a big base hit. We hit a lot of balls hard. They made some plays on us also, but we failed in a lot of opportunites to get the run in and tie the ball game or take the lead. We had plenty of chances. It just didn't work out for us tonight."
10: Home runs at Target Field by Bautista in 10 games.
0-for-9: Twins with runners in scoring position.
1: Career extra-base hits for Dozier, who doubled to lead off the sixth.
11: Runners left on base by Plouffe over the past two games.
1B Justin Morneau (wrist) took 25 swings off a tee on Saturday afternoon with no ill effects. He will continue taking swings over the next few days in hopes of coming off the disabled list when the Twins hit the road on Wednesday, but Morneau made no promises.
Sunday: vs. Blue Jays, 1:10 p.m. LHP Scott diamond (1-0, 0.00) vs. LHP Ricky Romero (4-0, 3.56)
Monday: vs. Indians, 7:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (2-3, 5.02) vs. RHP Jeanmar Gomez (2-2, 4.66)
Tuesday: vs. Indians, 12:10 p.m. RHP Jason Marquis (2-2, 6.26) vs. RHP Derek Lowe (5-1, 2.47)