It was billed as bullpen day, which should have been the first clue that it was going to be an ugly and achingly long night at the Rogers Centre.
Nothing to disparage the Blue Jays relievers as a whole, but when manager John Gibbons was left to use Luis Santos as his starter on Monday well, it wasn’t exactly a sign of inspiration or confidence.
The Jays got the “bull” part down, falling 8-3 to the mediocre Twins in one of their worst defeats of the season.
“Well, it didn’t work too well,” Gibbons said with a shrug after the three-hour, 18-minute marathon mercifully concluded. “At the big-league level you never want to do that, but sometimes you have to.”
Santos lasted two innings — which was about what was expected of him in the first start of his career — and was actually one of the least dinged up of the six different arms sent to the hill by Gibbons.
Let’s just say that after 4.1 innings, four Toronto pitchers had combined to allow 13 hits and eight runs to a Twins side which came here on a three-game losing streak and nine in a row without a win on the road.
No, you can’t play the Baltimore Orioles every night.
How bad was it? The normally compliant crowd at the dome let out one of the noisiest rounds of boos of the season when reliever Joe Biagini began the fifth inning by allowing homer-single-homer-double to the first four Twins batters he faced.
When Biagini finally got Robbie Grossman on strikes for the first out of the inning, he was greeted with a lusty Bronx Cheer. The three runs surrendered by Biagini were the last to come across until the Jays counted a couple of garbage time scores in the ninth.
Even the almost excommunicated Jaime Garcia saw some action, pitching the seventh as the sixth Jays pitcher to see action. It was Garcia’s first outing action in eight days dating back to a relief appearance in Boston when he walked three of the four hitters he faced.
So of course Garcia came up with a 1-2-3 inning on just 10 pitches and followed with another clean half on nine pitches and was left in to toss an efficient ninth as well. Unfortunately the solid effort came with nothing on the line and the damage long since done.
The Jays were forced into the non-starter start situation because Marco Estrada wasn’t up to the task due to a slower than expected recovery from a strained glute. Estrada instead is scheduled to pitch for triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday to work his way back into form.
Gibbons felt he had enough arms to get through the night, however, so went with the bullpen strategy and hoped for the best as his team entered the three-gamer vs. the Twins after sweeping the listless O’s to start the post all star break.
The Jays weren’t exactly facing a Cy Young candidate in Twinkies starter Adalberto Mejia, who was recalled from triple A Rochester to make just his second start of the season.
Other than a Lourdes Gurriel homer in the third, the Jays weren’t able to generate anything off of Meija, however. And even when they got to the Twins bullpen, they had the bases loaded with nobody out in the sixth and couldn’t get a run across and left two more aboard in the seventh.
The 13 runners the Jays left on base matched a season high. And that, of course, had nothing to do with bullpen day. It was indicative, rather, of a team that after 99 games finds itself seven games below .500 and precious little to play for the rest of the way.
When the Houston Astros were willing to part with Teoscar Hernandez 52 weeks and a handful of days ago in a deal for Jays left hander Francisco Liriano at last year’s trade deadline, the stated reason was because the soon to be World Series champs had a glut of outfielders.
More and more we’re starting to think they meant outfielders that could handle the position defensively.
As we’ve seen throughout his time here, Hernandez is a wild ride, particularly in left field. The top of the first was certainly an adventure on Monday when he misplayed a pair of balls hit to him, allowing the Twins to jump out to a 1-0 lead.
On the first, Hernandez mistimed a fly ball by Joe Mauer at the wall that resulted in a double. Two batters later he got a slow jump on an Eduardo Escobar hit, mistimed his attempt to get his glove on it and dove to the turf in vain. From that vantage point, Hernandez was left to watch the ball roll all the way to the wall for an RBI triple that opened the scoring.
One of the rare bright spots for the Jays came from the bat of Gurriel Jr. who had a home run in the third inning and a single in the seventh.
It was the sixth consecutive game in which Gurriel had multiple hits, making him just the third Jays rookie to have that many in a row. Al Woods had seven way back in 1977 and John Olerud six back in 1990.
The second hit bumped Gurriel’s batting average to .291 making him the club leader in that department.
Gurriel also became the 13th player in Jays history to homer five plus times in his first 33 major league games.
As his return from his 75-game suspension grows nearer, the Jays are getting more aggressive with the rehab assignment of closer Roberto Osuna.
The reliever, who has been suspended since May 9 for violation of MLB’s domestic violence policy, was promoted to triple A Buffalo, which plays a doubleheader in Louisville on Tuesday.
Osuna has had three appearances with single-A Dunedin, pitching a scoreless inning in each of those. It’s expected that Osuna will have an extended stint with the Bisons leading to Aug. 5 when he’s eligible to rejoin the big team when they are on the road in Seattle.
Prior to being charged with assault of a woman by Toronto police, Osuna had nine saves this season. He went directly from single A to the big leagues on his rapid ascent so this will be his first stop at triple A.
AROUND THE BASES
Prior to the first pitch, the Jays held a moment of silence for the victims of Sunday night’s tragedy on the Danforth. Several players offered their support, including injured centre fielder Kevin Pillar. “Woke up and heard about the mass shooting here in our amazing city!,” Pillar tweeted. “Really sad by the news and for everyone that was involved. Prayers go out to the victims and their families!” … The Jays fell to 11-25 in games vs. left-handed starts, the most in the majors.