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The Twins’ newly fortified bullpen was nearly flawless on Wednesday afternoon. Newcomers Michael Fulmer and Jorge López each fired a scoreless frame as the bullpen warded off the Tigers in the last four innings of the game.
But the Twins’ bullpen issues cropped up again Thursday with three different relievers surrendering three runs apiece to Toronto, turning a tight game between playoff contenders into a blowout. The Twins fell 9-3 to the Blue Jays at Target Field, as a one-run deficit turned into a seven-run margin in a matter of mere minutes.
“We added some good arms to our ‘pen and I think we’re going to see some really good production from our bullpen in these last two months of the season,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I think our bullpen is going to end up being a strength of this team down the stretch. We didn’t see it all come together today, but I actually do think that is going to be the case.”
But while a different cast of characters in the bullpen may have executed exactly to plan a day before, things sure didn’t go the Twins’ way on Thursday night after a good start from Sonny Gray.
Gray gave up just one hit in his outing, but five walks ballooned his pitch count, forcing him out of the game after five innings.
“I feel like if I maybe … could have brought it into the zone a little bit more, then I’ve got a potential to go really deep into that game. I just felt like I was missing by that much all night,” Gray said, pinching his fingers close together.
With Gray out of the game and the bullpen in it, the potent Toronto (59-46) offense feasted.
Emilio Pagán almost immediately gave up the lead, surrendering a home run to Teoscar Hernández. Two more runs scored in the inning — one unearned after shortstop Carlos Correa fired a ball past Luis Arraez at first base, allowing a baserunner, who eventually scored, to move up two bases.
The Twins (55-50) scored their first run in a painful way — with the bases loaded in the fourth, rookie Jose Miranda was hit on the hand by a pitch, forcing in a run. Minnesota chipped away in the bottom of the sixth, using a Miranda groundout to plate Jorge Polanco.
But while the Twins’ offense was mostly quiet against all-star Alek Manoah and the Blue Jays’ bullpen — Minnesota finished with just three hits — the Blue Jays broke the game open.
Trevor Megill, in his second inning of work, allowed three hits in the eighth before being pulled. Tyler Duffey then followed, allowing a pair of inherited runners to score, as well as three of his own on a Vladimir Guerrero Jr. blast that helped seal the Twins’ fate.
“To see the game go in the direction that it did at the speed that it did, it’s tough to take,” Baldelli said. “We have to pitch better and, honestly, we could have played a better ballgame all the way around.”
Miranda had his hand wrapped up after the game but was optimistic that he may have avoided the worst. The ball, he said, hit him near the outside of his hand, and he said it didn’t really get the bone.
He said he expected to go in for an X-ray on Friday but was waiting to hear from the trainers on that. He also said he felt a bit sore but added that it “could be worse.”
“We may have dodged something there because it was a scary moment,” Baldelli said. “… In those instances a lot, you end up walking away really disappointed. But he continued to play on. We wrapped it. It’s a little swollen and a little sore, but normally, guys are coming out in excruciating pain. Luckily, he did not, at least to this point.”