The ball was crushed, and Eddie Rosario watched it sail away.
Unfortunately for the Twins, Rosario was standing in left field and not at the plate. The ball was hit by Toronto’s Teoscar Hernandez and carried high into the night before landing in the second deck for a three-run homer in the eighth inning that propelled the Blue Jays to a 5-3 victory on Monday night.
The loss came before an announced crowd of 11,727, by far the smallest in Target Field history. The previous low was Sunday’s 14,774, which just beat out the 15,171 for the second game of the 2017 season.
Rosario barely flinched as the pulverized ball sailed over his head. A late-inning lead disappeared with one swing off Adalberto Mejia, as Twins manager Rocco Baldelli tried to make do without a few relievers who needed rest. C.J. Cron’s three-run homer supplied all the Twins offense.
“We’re going to fall into a schedule now where we have to play regular games, and we’re going to be going a lot of spurts where we’re going 20 games in 21 days or something along those lines,” Baldelli said. “We’re going to need all of our guys to step up along the way, and I’m sure they will.”
With Taylor Rogers and Trevor Hildenberger having worked in Saturday’s and Sunday’s games, the Twins looked to Ryne Harper and Mejia to carry their 3-1 lead into the ninth inning Monday, after lefthander Martin Perez gave up one run in six innings in his first start of the season.
Harper pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, striking out two. The lefthanded Mejia took the ball for the eighth and, four batters later, the lead changed hands.
Freddy Galvis singled to left on an 0-2 pitch. Randal Grichuk doubled to right. Justin Smoak singled to left, driving in a run to make it 3-2.
Hernandez, who hit 22 home runs last season, fell behind 0-2 but fouled off three pitches to keep the at-bat alive. Mejia has struggled to finish off hitters early in his career.
Mejia threw a slider that didn’t get in enough, and Hernandez hammered the pitch just shy of the third deck to give Toronto a 5-3 lead.
None of the batters Mejia faced was lefthanded. Galvis was batting .389 against lefties, but Grichuk was 2-for-16 against them and Smoak was 2-for-15. Also, Baldelli has to find out what Harper and Mejia can do as a bullpen is under constant evaluation.
“I like some of the matchups, actually, that we had with Mejia, despite facing some righties,” Baldelli said. “I thought it could have worked out well for us. It didn’t, but we’ll ask him to do that again in the future.”
Baldelli lost another matchup Monday, as he was ejected for the first time as Twins manager. In the bottom of the eighth, he went to argue that Cron had fouled off a pitch, while umpire Mike Estabrook ruled Cron struck out swinging.
It was as nonconfrontational an ejection as could be. The two appeared to have a debate more than an argument until Estabrook had enough.
“There probably wasn’t a ton to flip out about out there,” Baldelli said, “but I wasn’t going to go back to the dugout until there was some kind of resolution, and that’s where the resolution kind of showed up.”
Cron, who belted a split-fingered fastball from his former Angels teammate Mike Shoemaker in the fourth inning for his second home run in as many days, thought the pitch in the eighth hit his bat and well as his thumb and should have been ruled a foul ball. He appreciated his manager coming out in support, even if he ended up getting tossed.
“He had my back,” Cron said. “I may have to buy him a little something to say thank you. It is what it is and we’re going to move on.”