TORONTO – The Twins bullpen was worn out during a blowout loss Sunday, leaving the team with fewer options Monday after it came back to tie the Blue Jays in the ninth inning.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire sent Matt Guerrier out for a second inning, but the righthander walked leadoff hitter Dioner Navarro.
“You walk the leadoff guy, anything can happen after that,” Gardenhire said.
Walks will haunt. Pinch runner Erik Kratz eventually scored the winning run as the Blue Jays answered the Twins’ rally to walk off to a 5-4 victory. It was a punch in the gut to the Twins, who have lost four of five to fall a season-worst four games under .500.
The Twins scrambled for two runs in the top of the ninth to tie the score at 4-4. That rally began with a sharp one-out single to right by Kendrys Morales, a surprise starter at designated hitter one day after he signed a contract. Morales, playing for the first time since last September with Seattle, went 1-for-3 with a walk and said he felt his timing get better as the game went along.
He has to knock the rust off in the majors, since he is out of minor league options and can’t be sent down to get sharp.
“Got a fastball,” Morales said. “Made good contact. Base hit.”
Aaron Hicks pinch ran. Trevor Plouffe hit a grounder to third that looked like it would be a game-ending double play, after the Twins had also grounded into double plays each of the previous three innings.
However, Toronto second baseman Steve Tolleson — a former Twins draft pick — couldn’t get the ball out of his glove after catching Brett Lawrie’s throw, leaving Plouffe safe at first with two out.
That was all the Twins needed. Kurt Suzuki hit a sinking liner that got past left fielder Kevin Pillar for an RBI double. Eduardo Escobar followed with a bloop double just out of the reach of Lawrie, scoring Suzuki with the tying run.
“We keep competing like we have been,” Gardenhire said.
But Guerrier couldn’t throw strikes when he needed to in the ninth. Casey Fien replaced him with one out and one on but gave up two singles. Kratz scored on a bloop single to right by Pillar, with Oswaldo Arcia’s throw on the money but a moment too late.
“They fought hard to get back in it,” Guerrier said. “It’s tough to get walked off any time.”
Until that ninth-inning rally, the Twins offense had been quiet since the very start of the game. Danny Santana led off with a home run to right-center off R.A. Dickey, and Brian Dozier made it back-to-back homers with a towering drive to left.
Toronto answered off Ricky Nolasco in the bottom of the inning with a three-run homer by Edwin Encarnacion, his 20th home run of the season. Jose Reyes added a solo shot in the fifth, the Blue Jays’ major league-leading 91st homer.
The Twins would like some of that power, one reason why they signed Morales for $7.5 million for the rest of the season. After one day on the team, he decided he couldn’t wait to play, asking Gardenhire to put him in the lineup. He will have to get game-ready during this nine-game road trip against AL East-leading Toronto, AL Central-leading Detroit and defending World Series champion Boston.
“He’s been sitting for four months,” Gardenhire said. “He’s thought about it. He watched the game [Sunday] and he wants to play. I’ve got no problem with that. I told him he’s got to let me know how he’s feeling.”