The Minnesota Twins had their chances to take control of the AL Central during their longest road trip in 39 years, but couldn’t make it happen.
Now, the Twins look to prevent falling further back in the division race as they conclude their 14-game trip on Thursday night trying to avoid a three-game sweep and a ninth straight loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
For the second straight night, Minnesota (77-62) couldn’t hang onto a lead, falling 5-4 in 11 innings to Toronto on Wednesday to fall to 5-8 on its extended road stretch - its longest since trips of 15 and 16 games in 1969.
After blowing a four-run lead en route to a 7-5 loss in Tuesday’s series opener, closer Joe Nathan couldn’t hold a one-run lead in the ninth inning and suffered his sixth blown save Wednesday. The All-Star also allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth of a 3-2 loss at Oakland on Saturday.
“This will turn around,” Nathan said of the Twins, who have lost eight of 11. “We’re not as bad as it has gone. As bad as our luck has gone, we’re hoping it’s going to turn and do just as good on the other end.”
Minnesota started the trip one game back of Chicago in the division, and remain one game back after the White Sox completed a 4-5 road swing Wednesday.
“We’re a game out of first place, we’re in September and I think a lot of teams would like to be where we’re at,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “A lot of people think the world is ending but it’s not for this clubhouse. We’ll be back and ready to play tomorrow.”
Joe Mauer went 2-for-6 with three RBIs Wednesday, while Justin Morneau added two hits for the Twins, who have been outscored 66-49 on the trip. Morneau is batting .378 (28-for-74) with three home runs and 16 RBIs over his last 18 contests. He is 8-for-20 against Toronto this season.
Minnesota starter Kevin Slowey (11-8, 3.70 ERA) is trying for his fifth consecutive winning decision after allowing two runs and six hits while striking out 10 in six innings of a 12-2 victory at Oakland on Friday.
The right-hander is 0-1 with a 5.91 ERA in two career starts versus Toronto, but is 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA over his last five games overall.
John McDonald singled home the go-ahead run in the 11th inning Wednesday for the Blue Jays (72-66), who have won four in a row overall and eight straight over Minnesota since an 8-5 defeat on June 28, 2007.
Toronto’s Jesse Litsch (9-8, 4.01) looks to bounce back from his outing Thursday, when he allowed three runs and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-2 defeat at Tampa Bay.
“I made a couple mistake pitches,” said the right-hander, who is 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in three career starts versus Minnesota and outdueled Slowey in a 5-3 Toronto victory over the Twins on May 13.