TORONTO – David Price put the first three Twins batters on in the fourth inning Monday, loading the bases in a tie game.
He had the Twins right where he wanted them.
Those three baserunners remained right where they were, of course, because the Twins offense is all but powerless lately to move them along. Eddie Rosario popped up, Aaron Hicks looked at a third strike, and Kurt Suzuki swung through a fastball to go down swinging, exacerbating the team’s recent habit of blown opportunities.
“A guy of his caliber, when you get opportunities, you get men on with less than two outs, you’ve got to take advantage,” manager Paul Molitor said after the Twins’ 5-1 loss to Toronto.
Bases-loaded situations are like rocket fuel for offenses, with pitchers forced to throw strikes and even routine outs driving home a run. Except for the Twins, lately.
Since Trevor Plouffe’s grand slam at Oakland on July 17, the Twins have gone 0-for-15 with the bases loaded, striking out seven times, grounding into two double plays — and failing to score even a single run.
Price was facing the right guys: Rosario has struck out in five of his seven bases-loaded at-bats this season, Hicks also is 0-for-7 and Suzuki is 1-for-7, albeit with five RBI.
“You hope they learn. Coming off a couple of walks, Eddie’s a free swinger, but he didn’t get a good pitch,” Molitor said. “Fouled one back that was out of the zone, and then he popped up on a pitch that was out of the zone. And I’m not exactly sure where Aaron was looking to cover early in the count, but … you definitely cannot afford to take that pitch there. You’ve got to really protect and try to put the ball in play and hopefully at least get one run. And Kurt did a good job, obviously fouled off some tough pitches, but eventually he got beat.”
Long route to Toronto
Tyler Duffey never dreamed he would be called up to the majors this season, never expected to climb two levels in four months. And he certainly never considered whether the Canadian government would prevent it from happening.
He had to Saturday, though, when he was informed by Class AAA Rochester manager Mike Quade that he will start Wednesday for the Twins — and then realized where that game will take place:
Outside the United States. Which requires a passport.
“Only I would get called up to Toronto,” Duffey said. “At 6 a.m. [Sunday], my dad had to catch a flight to Rochester with my passport. Then we drove up yesterday, got to take the scenic route to Toronto. It’s been a pretty wild 48 hours so far.”
It’s a 170-mile drive around Lake Ontario from Rochester, N.Y., to Toronto. They drove past Niagara Falls, but barely noticed, Duffey said. “We were pretty sleep-deprived by that point,” he said.
He will need to be rested Wednesday when he takes on the AL’s most high-powered offense, hoping to keep the ball on the ground. Duffey gave up 17 home runs in 2014, the second-highest total in the Twins system, but has given up only one this year.
“I’m not a big strikeout guy. For the most part, I try to get groundouts,” said the 24-year-old Texan, a former closer at Rice University. “I’ve got some pretty good guys behind me, so I think I’ll be all right.”
• Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant attended Monday’s game to watch Price.
• Ervin Santana gave up three runs, coming on a solo homers by Ryan Goins and a two-run blast by Josh Donaldson, in six innings. That was more runs than he had allowed in his first three road games combined (two). “I thought [Donaldson’s homer] was going to be a double, but he’s a strong guy,” Santana said.