Toronto at Minnesota

W: M. Guerrier (1-1) L: S. Downs (1-1)
S: J. Nathan (10)
HR: TOR - F. Thomas (7)   MIN - M. Cuddyer (6)

Hunter's hit keys Twins' win over Blue Jays; Big Hurt passes Gehrig

CBS wire reports

MINNEAPOLIS -- When a spate of injuries thinned out their bullpen, the Minnesota Twins were left with limited late-game options for the next several weeks.

Matt Guerrier, Pat Neshek and Joe Nathan alleviated any worries, at least for one night.

Torii Hunter followed a two-out fielding error by Toronto reliever Scott Downs with an RBI single in the seventh inning, sending the Twins to a 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays on Friday.

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.

But Blue Jays rookie Jesse Litsch was roughed up again, finished by Michael Cuddyer's two-run homer in the fifth, and Downs made a costly mistake.

"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.
Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
Third base coach Scott Ullger greets Michael Cuddyer during the outfielder's home run trot in the fifth.  (AP)
Third base coach Scott Ullger greets Michael Cuddyer during the outfielder's home run trot in the fifth. (AP)

Players of the Game

M. Cuddyer
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1

M. Stairs
AB 3
R 0
H 1
HR 0

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Toronto Blue Jays
Alex Rios, RF4130100 .299
Lyle Overbay, 1B4010113 .254
Vernon Wells, CF3100103 .266
Troy Glaus, 3B4000013 .275
Frank Thomas, DH3111111 .228
Matt Stairs, LF3012101 .311
Aaron Hill, 2B4000012 .274
Jason Phillips, C3010010 .259
   a- Adam Lind, PH1010000 .221
Royce Clayton, SS4000012 .243
a-singled for Phillips in the 9th
HR - Frank Thomas (7, Baker)
RBI - Frank Thomas (20), Matt Stairs 2 (13)
2-OUT RBI - Matt Stairs 2 (3)
CS - Matt Stairs (1, 2nd base by Guerrier/Redmond)
Team LOB - 8
DP - Hill-Clayton-Overbay
E - Scott Downs (1, Misplayed grounder)
Toronto Blue Jays
Jesse Litsch 4.1833101 4.24
Brian Tallet 1.2100020 3.14
Scott Downs (L,1-1) 0.2110110 2.60
Jason Frasor 1.1000000 5.09
HBP - Ford (by Jesse Litsch)
Pitches-Strikes - Jesse Litsch 89-56, Brian Tallet 24-17, Scott Downs 17-8, Jason Frasor 22-16
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jesse Litsch 6-5, Brian Tallet 1-2, Scott Downs 2-0, Jason Frasor 1-3
Batters Faced - Jesse Litsch 21, Brian Tallet 6, Scott Downs 5, Jason Frasor 4
Minnesota Twins
Luis Castillo, 2B3320100 .336
Jeff Cirillo, 3B3000000 .196
Michael Cuddyer, RF4122012 .274
Justin Morneau, 1B4011011 .282
Torii Hunter, CF4011001 .314
Mike Redmond, C4020012 .313
Jason Kubel, DH3010101 .254
Lew Ford, LF3010001 .226
Nick Punto, SS4000003 .224
2B - Mike Redmond (8, Litsch)
HR - Michael Cuddyer (6, Litsch)
SH - Jeff Cirillo (3)
RBI - Michael Cuddyer 2 (31), Justin Morneau (34), Torii Hunter (41)
2-OUT RBI - Justin Morneau (12), Torii Hunter (19)
PK - Mike Redmond (1, Litsch)
Team LOB - 8
DP - Punto-Castillo-Morneau
Minnesota Twins
Scott Baker 5.1533421 3.29
Matt Guerrier (W,1-1) 1.2100010 1.82
Pat Neshek (H,4) 1000110 1.21
Joe Nathan (S,10) 1200020 2.11
Pitches-Strikes - Scott Baker 92-61, Matt Guerrier 13-10, Pat Neshek 18-8, Joe Nathan 24-15
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Scott Baker 7-6, Matt Guerrier 1-2
Batters Faced - Scott Baker 24, Matt Guerrier 5, Pat Neshek 4, Joe Nathan 5
Game Information
Attendance - 26781
Game Time - 2:54
Temperature - 69
Umpires - Home - Bruce Dreckman, First Base - Adam Dowdy, Second Base - Gary Darling, Third Base - Larry Poncino