Tough all-around night for Twins
Baker allows four earned runs; White goes 2-for-3
TORONTO -- Torii Hunter is one player who likely won't be sad to head south of the border once the Twins wrap up their series against the Blue Jays.
Minnesota's road trip to Canada hasn't gone very well for the Twins center fielder. First, he woke up in his hotel room with watery eyes and an overpowering headache, side effects from either the flu or his allergies acting up. Then, on Tuesday night, things got worse -- but for a different reason.
Hunter went 0-for-3 at the plate, made a critical baserunning mistake, and had an uncharacteristic fielding gaffe in center, as the Twins dropped the second game of a three-game set to the Blue Jays, 7-0, at Rogers Centre.
Things started turning ugly for Hunter in the top of the fourth inning. With the Twins trailing by 1, Hunter was on first base with two outs and designated hitter Rondell White coming to the plate. White promptly doubled over the head of Toronto's Vernon Wells in center field to send Hunter off to the races. He sprinted around the bases and as he was rounding third, Twins third-base coach Scott Ullger threw up the stop sign.
Hunter stopped momentarily, but resumed running when he saw Wells' throw go over the head of second baseman Aaron Hill. It proved to be a costly decision, because Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay alertly backed up the play and easily threw Hunter out by at least three feet.
"I looked up and the ball was going over the second cutoff's head," Hunter said. "I tried to go and it seemed like Overbay came out of nowhere, picked up the ball, and it was too late -- I was in no-man's land. So I had to try and at least make an effort to get home."
"I was looking at the ball," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire explained. "All of a sudden I saw him. He was stopping -- then he was going. I think Scotty stopped him and then they overthrew the cutoff man, so he tried to restart, and any time you try to restart, you get thrown out."
Instead of the game being tied at 1, Toronto escaped the inning with the lead intact. To make matters worse, the Jays added two more runs in the bottom half of the inning to give themselves a little extra breathing room.
Hunter's night of misadventures continued in the bottom of the seventh. Hill hit a high fly ball to center that would normally be a routine catch for any fielder, especially a six-time Gold Glove winner. Unfortunately for Minnesota (51-49), Hunter lost track of the ball in the sky and had it bounce in front of him. Hill advanced to second base and eventually came around to score another insurance run for the Jays.
"Honestly, I didn't see it at all," Hunter said. "I've got human eyes like everybody else. You can't do anything about it. I've got nothing to complain about. I lost it. ... I can't beat Mother Nature."
To cap off the rough night, Hunter, just like the rest of Minnesota's lineup, was unable to get anything going off Jays starter Dustin McGowan. Toronto's 25-year-old right-hander dominated from start to finish. The Twins were only able to advance two runners past first base and never sent any more than four batters to the plate in an inning against him.
"He's filthy," Hunter said. "He was on. Inside corner, outside corner, changing speeds. It was tough to do something off him today."
McGowan (7-5) finished by allowing just four hits while striking out five over 7 1/3 innings of work. The lack of Twins offense spoiled a solid outing by Scott Baker. Minnesota's right-hander allowed four runs on six hits over seven innings. His only real mistake of the game came in the fourth, when Wells hit a poorly located fastball over the wall in left for a two-run homer.
"It was a situation where I knew he was going to be aggressive and swing at the first couple of pitches," Baker said. "You have to make good quality pitches early in the count, and it was a pitch that got too much of the plate and he got enough to hit it out."
It was an ugly game for the Twins and the type of loss they can ill-afford at this point in the season. Minnesota has now lost three games in a row and is 2-6 over its last eight contests. Despite the recent skid, Baker (4-4) says the team is still focused on doing whatever it can to get back into the playoff race.
"I don't think we feel like things are slipping away," Baker said. "We just ran into a guy who's throwing the ball right now, and it was just one of those nights. If we keep going out there and battling, good things will happen. That's all you can do."
With the trade deadline looming, the Twins' ability to bounce back from Tuesday's loss could go a long way in deciding how the rest of the season shapes up. Minnesota has one more game against the Jays (50-50) before heading to Cleveland for a crucial three-game set against the Indians.
"The great thing about the game of baseball is that you don't have to wait long to play again," Gardenhire said. "You can look at it two ways. You can come in depressed, or you can come back in as a professional. I choose to come back in like a professional and try to figure out how to win a baseball game. I hope the rest of the guys in the clubhouse do the same thing."
Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.