MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—When a spate of injuries thinned out their bullpen, the Minnesota Twins were left with limited late-game options for the next several weeks.
Toronto’s Frank Thomas went deep for the second straight day, evening it at 3 in the sixth with home run No. 494 to move past Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff into sole possession of 21st place on baseball’s career list.
“You have to get a few breaks here and there,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team has rebounded from a bleak two-week stretch to win five of the last seven games.
Justin Morneau hit a weak dribbler in front of the mound that Downs (1-1) fumbled when he tried to pick it up with his bare hand. Luis Castillo moved to third on the error and scored when Hunter poked a ball through the hole to the opposite field for his team-high 41st RBI.
“We need to make the play on Morneau’s. Just didn’t get it done,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
That made Guerrier (1-1) the winner after throwing 1 2-3 scoreless innings in relief of Scott Baker, whose second start wasn’t nearly as good as his first last weekend at Milwaukee.
Neshek bounced back from a leadoff walk by striking out Thomas in a hitless eighth, and Nathan—despite surrendering a pair of singles that put runners on the corners with two outs—struck out Lyle Overbay to close the ninth for his 10th save in 11 chances.
It was exactly what those three guys needed to do, after Jesse Crain, Glen Perkins and Dennys Reyes each went on the disabled list with shoulder injuries over the past 10 days. Crain is out for the season, Perkins for the next two to four weeks, and Reyes until at least June 5.
“It’s tough to replace that,” Cuddyer said. “Hopefully guys will be able to step up.”
Baker wasn’t bad. He retired 10 straight batters over one stretch after allowing a soft two-run single to Matt Stairs with two outs and the bases loaded in the first, but he didn’t come close to matching the 8 1-3 innings he threw last time against the Brewers.
Thomas, who extended the rally in the first inning with a walk right before the hit by Stairs, was down two strikes again in the sixth when he fought back and found the pitch he wanted for his seventh homer this year. Baker gave up five hits, three runs and three walks in 5 1-3 innings and struck out two.
“I wanted to finish that inning. I just didn’t make the pitch,” Baker said.
After a head-turning debut in which he held Baltimore to one run and was one out short of a complete game, Litsch has been very hittable in his last two appearances. The Blue Jays actually have pitched well since ace Roy Halladay went to the disabled list two weeks ago following an appendectomy, but Litsch could be sent back to the minors when Halladay returns if he can’t find the form from his first start.
“It’s always a battle out there at this level,” Litsch said. “I just have to battle back a little harder to overcome it.”
The 22-year-old right-hander took a 2-1 lead into the fifth that was lost when he left a one-out, one-strike pitch up to Cuddyer, who smacked it into the left-field seats with Castillo on second.
Brian Tallet was summoned from the bullpen, sending Litsch off with eight hits, three earned runs, one walk and one hit batter allowed without a strikeout in 4 1-3 innings.
“Overall, I thought he did all right,” Gibbons said.
C Joe Mauer still needs more time before he’s ready to return for Minnesota, but he said before the game his strained left quadriceps muscle was feeling much better than it did earlier in the week. Mauer has grown a beard he isn’t sure he’ll keep, partly because it wouldn’t be comfortable underneath the mask. “If I shave this, then it’s probably a good sign,” he said, referring to his return from the disabled list. … Including the homers, Thomas has only six hits in his last 42 at-bats. … Twins SS Jason Bartlett (sore neck and shoulder) was out of the lineup for the fourth straight game, but he was improving and available in an emergency.