Baseball is difficult enough when you need 27 men out. The Twins made it even more so in Sunday's 3-0 loss to Toronto at Target Field.
The Blue Jays' two runs in an unnecessarily elongated second inning stood all afternoon as the decisive runs. Even after they added an extra run on an eighth-inning error. Even after Daulton Varsho snatched down Carlos Correa's aspiring home run at the center field wall in the same inning, a day after the center fielder came up short twice.
The Twins lost for the eighth time in 12 games. They have dropped two out three games in each of their past four series.
This time, the Twins were undone by baserunning and fielding miscues. "We played a disjointed game today, is what we did," manager Rocco Baldelli said.
The Blue Jays' two second-inning runs were enough for José Berríos to get the victory and improve to 5-4. The two-time All-Star with the Twins gave up four hits, no runs, walked five and struck out five in 5⅔ innings, improving to 3-1 with a 4.03 ERA in five starts against his old team since it traded him to Toronto in July 2021.
Twins righthander Bailey Ober (3-2) pitched five innings and gave up those two runs that probably shouldn't have been ruled earned. Four relievers followed, the second of which, Emilio Pagán, left because of a left hip flexor strain after facing one batter in the seventh inning.
"Bailey threw great," Baldelli said. "I liked everything I saw from him."
Baldelli couldn't say that about much of his team who erred in the field and on the basepaths.
On Saturday, Edouard Julien doubled twice and hit a home run in a 9-7 victory over a Blue Jays franchise he cheered when he was a boy growing up in Quebec City.
On Sunday, the rookie's baserunning error stalled the bottom of the first inning when the Twins threatened to score but left with nothing. Joey Gallo led off with a single and Julien walked. When Correa singled to right field, Julien rounded second, apparently planning to take third when Gallo ahead of him turned for home.
Gallo — recovering from a sore hamstring — never did. Julien was tagged out stuck between bases.
The Twins left Gallo stranded on third, and no Twins player came as close to home again.
In the fourth inning, Twins left fielder Alex Kirilloff tried to advance from first to third on Willi Castro's single to center, but Varsho grabbed the ball on one hop and on a line threw out Kirilloff at third to end the inning.
"The baserunning plays, those are mental cramps right there," Baldelli said. "We need to do better."
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays capitalized by scoring twice in a second inning that featured Julien prominently again, this time as a fielder.
With two outs and a runner on first, Varsho hit a grounder that second baseman Julien ranged to his left to field. He slid to scoop it up and came up ready to throw, but dropped the ball trying to get it from his glove. The official scorer ruled it an infield hit.
Next up, Alejandro Kirk hit a blooper into shallow center field, upon which center fielder Castro, Julien and Kirilloff all converged, but nobody caught. Kirilloff dived and knocked the ball away from himself, enabling both baserunners to score.
Julien also struck out twice and afterward sat at his clubhouse locker with his head in his hands.
"It's tough, it's baseball," Ober said after his second loss in a row. "It's going to happen. There's going to be bloop singles. There are going to be ground balls that get through. But you just got to keep pitching."
Toronto added an insurance run when Castro failed to field Bo Bichette's seventh hit of the series, an eighth-inning single that scored George Springer from first.
"We're just giving them outs on plays that are not overly difficult," Baldelli said. "It's a close ballgame and you're still in it. If we just don't hurt ourselves and just play OK in the field and smart on the bases — or not even smart, just standard operation procedure — we're right in there. We might even still be playing right now."