TORONTO – When it was all over, when the wreckage of his first major league start had been cleared and the hole he put the Twins in proved too much to overcome, when Tyler Duffey had a chance to contemplate all that had gone wrong during the Twins’ 9-7 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday night, he had one reasonable and heartfelt reaction:
Wow, that was cool.
OK, not the two tape-measure home runs he allowed, or the fact that his major league ERA stands at 27.00. And certainly not the fact that he couldn’t prevent the Twins from losing their fourth consecutive game, dropping them two games out of a playoff spot. But the rookie sounded a little bit in awe over what he had experienced.
“Obviously, you want to get here and stay here, but even [for] this bit of time, it’s unlike anything else,” Duffey said after allowing six runs on five hits and two walks in only two innings. “It’s awesome.”
That wide-eyed reaction might have contributed to the results, manager Paul Molitor said, but that’s the risk you take when you hand the ball to newcomers for the first time.
“We knew it was a tough environment for him,” Molitor said of Rogers Centre, where baseballs lately have been flying out at a breathtaking pace. “Watching his preparation, I think he was OK. But giving up a walk and a home run [to the first two batters], it probably changes. It seemed to change.”
It did, and the shame of it for the Twins was, they finally showed some life at the plate. After scoring only three runs in their past three games, the Twins equaled that output before Duffey even took the mound, with a Trevor Plouffe two-run double helping to stake the rookie to a 3-0 lead.
But Troy Tulowitzki drew a walk to open Duffey’s career, and in trying to prevent Josh Donaldson from doing the same, the righthander left a fastball over the plate. It landed deep into the left field stands, the third consecutive day Donaldson had homered, and suddenly, the rookie understood why far more experienced pitchers have trouble with these Jays, too.
“The difference here that I’ve seen is, pitches that are chased down there [in the minor leagues] are taken here,” Molitor said. “They were pretty patient on his breaking ball. He had to throw it over, and these guys will make you do that.”
Guys such as Jose Bautista. After surviving his first inning, Duffey opened the second by forcing two ground balls but, just his luck, both turned into singles. This time he walked Donaldson, but when he got behind 3-1 to Bautista with the bases loaded, he was in for trouble.
“I threw it where I wanted to. He was just sitting on it,” Duffey said of Bautista’s cannonading 400-plus-foot blast. “They’ve played a lot more games than I could even imagine. They know what’s coming, even if you think you’re tricking them.”
Edwin Encarnacion hit one even farther two innings later against J.R. Graham, a three-run shot that seemed to end all doubt. But the Twins rallied for four runs off Toronto starter Drew Hutchison, two on Joe Mauer’s double and two more on the first road home run of Miguel Sano’s career, another next-time-zone blast.
“He’s hit some homers, but I think that might have been the hardest [hit],” Molitor said. “It was almost as loud as their guys’.”
Another rally gave the Twins more hope, with runners on second and third in the ninth with one out. But Aaron Hicks popped out and Brian Dozier lined a screamer to left fielder Ben Revere to end the game and give LaTroy Hawkins a save against all 30 MLB teams.
It also extended the Twins’ misery.
“We see what’s happening, the fact we’re having trouble winning games. We know what our record is since the break,” Molitor said of his 5-13 squad. “We’ve had a couple four-game losing streaks in the past 9-10 days, so there’s some frustration. You’ve got to keep playing through it.”