Twins score three straight runs on wild pitches, rally past Jays
With the Twins well into a truly wild rally, Jason Kubel and Chris Colabello shared a joke as they waited for their turn to bat.
"Man, we’ve been doing it all wrong for a while. We’ve been trying to hit the ball to score runs. We don’t need to do that," Colabello said.
Not on Thursday night they didn’t.
The Twins scored three straight runs on wild pitches by Toronto’s Sergio Santos in the eighth inning, when they walked eight times off three Blue Jays relievers to finish a 9-5 victory and a sweep of the day-night doubleheader.
Kyle Gibson threw eight scoreless innings as Minnesota won the opener 7-0. The Twins trailed 5-1 in the fifth inning of the second game after another lackluster start by Mike Pelfrey, but they stayed patient.
Steve Delabar walked two batters starting the six-run eighth, setting up Santos (0-1) for trouble as manager John Gibbons called for his closer early. Santos walked all three batters he faced, loading the bases with one out when he put on pinch-hitter Trevor Plouffe. The Twins cut the lead to 5-4 when Josmil Pinto came home on a wild pitch.
The collapse by the Blue Jays’ bullpen got worse from there.
Ball four by Santos to pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki was wild, too, allowing Chris Herrmann to score and tie the game. Santos threw another wild pitch to Brian Dozier, and pinch-runner Pedro Florimon raced home for the lead.
Dozier saw six straight sliders from Santos.
"That’s his strikeout pitch," Dozier said.
Not on this night.
"I was trying to be too perfect there," said Santos, who took his first blown save in five chances this year.
J.A. Happ relieved him and walked the next two, with Chris Colabello, the AL leader with 19 RBIs, forcing in a run. Then Jason Kubel broke open the game with a two-run single, the only hit of the inning.
"It was a crappy ending to a crappy day, I’ll tell you that," Gibbons said.
Santos, who has been handling the ninth-inning role while Casey Janssen is on the disabled list with a strained back, threw only four of 16 pitches for strikes. The previous time a team walked eight times in one inning was April 19, 1996, when Texas did so against Baltimore. The record of 11 was set by pitchers on the original Washington Senators against the New York Yankees on Sept. 11, 1949.
According to STATS research dating to 1974, this was the only game that featured an eight-walk, three-wild-pitch inning.
Casey Fien (2-0) pitched a scoreless eighth for the victory for the Twins.
Jose Bautista took over the AL lead with his sixth homer, a solo shot in the fifth inning that accelerated Pelfrey’s exit. Bautista, who also walked and scored in the first, has gone deep 11 times in 14 games at the ballpark the Twins opened in 2010. That’s the same number of homers Joe Mauer has here in 256 games.
Edwin Encarnacion had an RBI single and reached base four times for the Blue Jays. Toronto starter Dustin McGowan, like Pelfrey, failed to finish the fifth. But all that was forgotten with the wildness that came in the eighth.
Pelfrey used the words "terrible" four times and "embarrassing" three times in discussing his performance with reporters, describing his mood in the clubhouse as "crushed," as if his dog had died. But he perked up.
"These guys picked me up, and hopefully from here on out they won’t need to do that," Pelfrey said.
The first game was played in 2 hours, 38 minutes, thanks to Gibson’s command, and the Twins joked afterward they were ready to come back out for the next one in a half-hour. Instead, they waited nearly 3 hours for another lumbering start by Pelfrey.
After wintry weather forced postponement of Wednesday’s game, workers scrambled all morning to melt snow and ice from the seating areas, and the grounds crew dried the warning track. The Twins even sent out a company-wide memo asking for help. Slush still sat along the edges of the plaza behind right field, and the highest seating level was closed off because it wasn’t cleared in time, giving those customers an unexpected upgrade.
The announced paid attendance was just over 20,000 for both games, but the actual number of people present was half of that at most, much lower at night despite the downright balmy 42 sunny degrees at first pitch.
Pinto highlighted a five-run fifth inning in the first game against Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (1-3) with a two-run double, missing a grand slam by a few inches. Plouffe also had two RBIs. But the story of the game was Gibson.
Gibson (3-0) took the mound for the coldest start for an outdoor game in Twins history, 31 degrees, and breezed through a Blue Jays lineup that totaled 20 runs in the previous two games. He walked one, struck out four and scattered four singles.