MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Phil Hughes was rolling along against his old AL East foes from Toronto, piling up the strikeouts and freezing Blue Jays bats through five innings on a chilly night at Target Field.
Then it all fell apart faster than one of his 93 mph fastballs, and Hughes was done without getting an out in the sixth.
The right-hander gave up four runs on eight hits and Jared Burton served up a grand slam to Brett Lawrie in the ninth as the Minnesota Twins lost 9-3 Tuesday night.
“It’s just one of those things – sometimes you go through little spurts in games where you just can’t execute a pitch,” Hughes said. “I just happened to do it at the wrong time.”
Hughes (0-1) struck out seven and had allowed four hits through five scoreless innings before losing control in the sixth.
Jose Bautista had three hits and an RBI to help the Blue Jays earn their fifth straight win against Minnesota. Edwin Encarnacion had two hits and an RBI, and Aaron Loup (1-0) won in relief of starter Brandon Morrow, who lasted 3 2-3 innings in 35-degree weather.
Chris Colabello had three hits and an RBI, and Trevor Plouffe hit a solo home run for the Twins.
The Blue Jays have historically hit the ball very well at pitcher-friendly Target Field and they were going against one of their favorite pitchers in Hughes, who faced them many times with the New York Yankees. Toronto hit 15 home runs off Hughes in 116 2-3 innings while he was in pinstripes.
“The middle of that order seems like it’s been the same for a while now,” Hughes said. “We’ve had a lot of at-bats against each other, certainly lots of sequences and things. So you’ve always got to switch it up. Just trying to make pitches late in the game is what it’s all about and for whatever reason, I just couldn’t do it.”
Hughes kept the ball in the ballpark and kept the Blue Jays off balance through a very sharp first five innings. But in a recurring theme through his first three starts for the Twins, he was done in by one big inning. He recorded all seven of his strikeouts and needed just 74 pitches to get to the sixth.
Hughes gave up four quick hits to start the inning, including RBI singles by Bautista and Encarnacion to get chased with two on and nobody out. Michael Tonkin gave up a single to load the bases, and a poor decision by first baseman Joe Mauer and a throwing error from catcher Kurt Suzuki later in the inning allowed Dioner Navarro to score for a 5-2 lead.
“You’ve got to figure out a way to stop the bleeding,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He sure wasn’t able to do it there in that inning. It’s too bad because another good outing and he ends up leaving like that.”
The big inning helped Toronto overcome a rough start from Morrow, who threw 98 pitches and couldn’t get out of the fourth inning. Morrow gave up two runs and four hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
Bautista played center field because Colby Rasmus needed an extra day to rest his ailing hamstring. It was the slugger’s first start there since 2009 and he badly misplayed a sinking liner from Pedro Florimon, letting the ball get behind him for a triple.
Florimon scored on a single by Mauer, who struck out three times, for a 2-0 lead.
“It seemed like we should’ve had a bunch of runs,” Gardenhire said. “But (Morrow) made enough pitches to get through it.”
NOTES: It was Lawrie’s second career grand slam. … Twins assistant GM Ron Antony said OF Oswaldo Arcia, on the disabled list with an injured wrist, received a cortisone injection in hopes of speeding his recovery. … Twins RHP Mike Pelfrey (0-2, 7.84 ERA) pitches Wednesday night against RHP R.A. Dickey (1-2, 5.30).