Not only did the Twins get swept at home by Toronto after winning three of four from Boston, but the team has had some bad news at the gate, too.

The economy has had some effect on attendance at the Metrodome, as after 24 home games they have drawn some 60,000 fewer fans than a year ago.

Through 24 games last season, they drew 652,612 fans, an average of 27,192 per game. They played their 24th home game of 2008 on Thursday, losing 3-2 to the Blue Jays in 11 innings in front of an announced 18,701. That put their attendance this year at 592,249, an average of 24,677.

From a performance standpoint, it's hard to believe you were watching the same team over the past three games against the Blue Jays after the Twins played so well against the defending world champion Red Sox. The Twins made one Little League mistake after another in getting swept.

There were few positives to take away from the Toronto series. One was the hitting of Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel.

Morneau hadn't hit a home run in May until he hit a two-run homer off 2003 Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay on Wednesday night. He went 2-for-4 Thursday, capping a homestand where he hit .444 with seven RBI, raising his season average to .301; he is 25-for-71 (.352) since April 25.

Kubel, who came into the Toronto series in an 0-for-15 slump, went 5-for-9 against the Blue Jays, including two doubles and a pinch-hit home run. Morneau and Kubel have combined for 12 of the team's 23 home runs.

The Twins lost three close games to the Blue Jays, where a hit here or there could have resulted in a sweep the other way.

Leaves good team

Outgoing Gophers men's track and field coach Phil Lundin will guide the team at the Big Ten meet this weekend at Champaign, Ill.

Lundin, who is leaving the Gophers to coach St. Olaf, said he is leaving a good nucleus for the next coach. That's reflected in the performance this year of several individuals who will return next season.

"Aaron Studt was the Drake Relays shot put champion, he's ranked as one of the top five shot putters in the U.S. [and] he's just a sophomore," Lundin said. "... He's also a very good hammer and discus thrower; before he's done, he could be one of the best throwers that Minnesota has ever had, and that's saying quite a bit because Minnesota has a great, rich history in the throws.

"We also have two of the best distance runners in the U.S., one's a true freshman, Hassan Mead, who was the Big Ten cross-country freshman of the year, also an All-America."

Mead, a former Minneapolis South standout, placed second in the 5,000 meters at the Big Ten indoor track meet and is a favorite to win the 5,000 or 10,000 at the outdoor meet.

"Right behind him is [junior] Chris Rombough, who was the Big Ten champion in cross-country in 2006; these two young guys are two of the top 5,000 kids in the U.S.," Lundin said.

Lundin also sang the praises of Ibrahim Kabia, a junior sprinter from Champlin Park who was an All-America in the 60 meters in 2007.

"He was the Drake Relays 100-meter champ [this year], he's one of the better sprinters, probably the best short sprinter that the University of Minnesota has ever had," Lundin said. "Then you add to that [sophomore] Ben Peterson and all of our vaulters. ... They're all freshmen and sophomores. [And] we have a great group of young decathletes."

Jottings

Francisco Liriano, making his fourth start since the Twins sent him back to Class AAA Rochester, had his longest outing of the season Thursday, issuing only one walk in eight innings in a 3-1 loss to Columbus. He gave up seven hits and struck out four, throwing 61 of his 93 pitches for strikes.

Twins outfielder Carlos Gomez has become popular here in a hurry. He had 300 fans waiting for him at a recent autograph session in Burnsville.

Fred Hoiberg, Timberwolves assistant general manager, plans to take a stuffed bear for good luck to Tuesday's NBA draft lottery. The bear belongs to a 12-year-old Brooklyn Park boy, Matthew Gamber, whom Hoiberg has befriended the past two seasons. The boy has undergone more than 100 medical procedures and always takes the bear with him into surgery, Hoiberg said Thursday. The Wolves' best chance is for the fifth (29.05 percent) or fourth (23.82 percent) picks in the draft.

Rivals.com has Royce White, the Gophers recruit and former DeLaSalle standout now at Hopkins, as the 18th-best player in the country in the class of 2009. Cooper's Rodney Williams is ranked 28th.

Gophers assistant wrestling coach Joe Russell said Champlin Park's Sam Maresh, who not only won three state wrestling titles but also finished third in a national high school meet this spring, could be a future NCAA champion if he decided to wrestle in college. However, Maresh will concentrate on football, where he could see a lot of playing time as a freshman linebacker.

Gophers football coach Tim Brewster said Kevin Whaley, the running back from Virginia Beach, Va., who was shot in the leg in March, is healthy and will be enrolling in school this June. ... Corey Frazier, son of Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, is an outstanding defensive back at Eden Prairie and he was one of the players the Gophers recently had on campus.

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen and tight end Jim Kleinsasser were among the guests of Gov. Tim Pawlenty for the state fishing opener Saturday on Big Pelican Lake in Breezy Point.

Ryan Hoag, the former Minneapolis Washburn, Gustavus Adolphus and Vikings wide receiver, didn't see any action with San Jose of the Arena Football League after signing. Hoag will appear on ABC's "The Bachelorette" this summer. ... Former Gophers receivers Ron Johnson and Aaron Hosack are playing in the Arena Football League. Johnson has 89 catches and nine touchdowns in 11 games for Orlando, while Hosack has 18 receptions and five TDs playing in three games for Colorado.

Former Gophers baseball player Mike Mee is having an impressive season in the Class A Midwest League for South Bend, batting .308 with two homers and 13 RBI for the Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com