Hunter's shots help Twins rally vs. Jays
Silva settles down after rough first inning in series finale
MINNEAPOLIS -- Approaching a difficult road trip that will feature 11 games in 10 days, the last thing the Twins wanted to do was to leave for that trip on the wrong foot.But early in the game Thursday, it seemed to be a day primed for the Blue Jays and not the Twins. Frank Thomas finally hit his 500th career home run. The homer came as part of a four-run first inning and Toronto had its talented right-hander, A.J. Burnett, back on the mound for the first time in nearly two weeks. It looked like everything was going wrong for the Twins. Then, all of a sudden, the Twins got the kick start they had been searching for. A day primed for a loss turned into a comeback 8-5 victory over the Blue Jays, mostly due to the resurgence of Carlos Silva. "Carlos was the story," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He gave up some runs early, but we needed him to go deep into the game. He started off struggling and didn't really have much, but he found it and gave us a chance to breathe and get after [the Blue Jays]." Silva got off to a very rough start in the contest. In the first inning, he gave up four runs on three hits while walking one. The most memorable of those hits came when Thomas belted a 1-2 pitch into the left-field seats to make it a 4-0 game. Thomas had come into the four-game series seeking his 500th homer, but his bat had been held quiet for the first three nights. That would change when Silva left a slider just over the plate and Thomas blasted it 396 feet into the left-field seats. Silva (6-8) entered the game with the lowest run support in the American League, averaging just 3.79 runs per start. So when Silva put the Twins in a 4-0 hole after the first inning, it appeared like more of the same was to come. Not so fast. A different Silva emerged after the rough first inning. Instead of letting things snowball, Silva settled down to allow just one run over his final six innings. After the first inning, Silva allowed just three hits the rest of his outing. He retired seven straight Blue Jays at one point and looked like a completely different pitcher on the mound. So what was the difference? "In the first inning, I wasn't aggressive enough," Silva said. "It's like I didn't want to throw anything right on the plate. The third inning is when I started throwing. I was like, 'Let's make the hitter hit the ball.'" Silva's ability to get things going allowed him to stretch through the seventh inning. For a team that has used its bullpen to pitch eight innings over the past two games, it was a more than welcome sight. And for Silva, it was a chance to show that he has become a different pitcher. "I was one of those kind of pitchers, when I would give up runs early I made myself mad and would get out of the game," Silva said. "You have to be a man and think not only about yourself. You have to think about your team. If you are going to act like a little kid, I am going to hurt my team and hurt my bullpen because I'm going to be out of there, and then we kill the bullpen. So I just tried to be more consistent and make my pitches. And that's what I did." Silva's resurgence also gave the Twins the opportunity to complete a comeback performance of their own, and much of that was thanks to an impressive day for Torii Hunter, who belted two home runs in consecutive at-bats to help spark the comeback. Hunter led off the fourth inning with a solo shot to center field to pull the Twins within two runs of the Blue Jays, 5-3. But it was his second homer, a two-run blast over the left-field wall in the fifth inning, that gave the Twins their first lead of the ballgame. Hunter's second home run came as part of a four-run inning for the Twins. Jason Tyner and Jason Bartlett delivered back-to-back singles off Burnett to start the inning. Jason Frasor then replaced Burnett. Frasor walked a batter and gave up two groundouts that tied the game at 5. With two outs and a runner on second, Hunter then belted a 374-foot shot for a 7-5 lead. It was the eighth career two-homer game for Hunter and brought his total for the season to 17 homers, ranking him second on the team behind Justin Morneau, who has 20. Seeing the names of two Twins near the top of the American League home run totals isn't something that has happened much over the past 20 years, and that fact wasn't lost on Hunter. "That's not a common thing, but we'll take it," Hunter said with a laugh. "Morneau and myself, we're up there. You don't see that much in Twins history since Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett. But right now, we just go out and are doing our thing. Getting their lineup back healthy and on a roll will be important for the Twins as they head on their final road trip before the All-Star break. The team currently sits six games back of the Tigers for the AL Central lead, and they know that each win will be important. That includes the comeback victory they earned on Thursday. "Obviously, you want to win baseball games," Gardenhire said. "Cleveland won today, so we're not losing ground on them. Detroit, you don't want to lose any ground there, either. Hopefully we just show up and play great baseball on this trip."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.