Halladay, Jays stymie Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- Roy Halladay reared back and stifled the Twins again for seven dominant innings, and the Toronto Blue Jays breezed past Minnesota 9-2 on Thursday with another round of relentless swings.
Light-hitting leadoff man Marco Scutaro hustled home for a first-inning run off Francisco Liriano (0-3) and broke the game open with a two-run shot in a seven-run seventh highlighted by Kevin Millar's fourth career grand slam. Halladay improved to 8-0 with a 2.77 ERA in his career against the Twins.
Toronto won three of four in the series and has taken 12 of the past 13 from Minnesota. Halladay (3-0) allowed eight hits and struck out eight without a walk. The 6-foot-6 right-hander allowed one run in the second inning via fielder's choice grounder.
With a rookie-laden rotation behind Halladay, the Blue Jays were happy to have a 7-3 record after the first two turns. Offense has fueled this fast start, and though Liriano minimized the damage there were plenty of pops and cracks echoing throughout the Metrodome through his six innings.
Scutaro started the game with a double. Michael Cuddyer leaped at the wall to take a hit from Aaron Hill, but the relay throw skipped past Alexi Casilla for an error on the second baseman and Scutaro cruised home for an unearned run.
Liriano has pitched well enough to have at least one win, if not two, but he's still missing that edge he had as a rookie in 2006.
After a 1-2-3 fourth, Liriano was an out away from finishing the fifth tied at 1 when Hill's single drove in Jose Bautista.
That was the only opening Halladay needed.
His sixth inning was an ace's work of art. After a single and a hit-by-pitch put runners on with none out, Halladay struck out the side. Casilla was way out in front of a curveball. Justin Morneau fanned on a 91 mph pitch, right after he went for the curve. Then Jason Kubel whiffed three straight times at a cut fastball that dived and darted toward his shins.
The Blue Jays had no mercy for the bullpen, sending 12 batters to the plate in the seventh and bringing manager Ron Gardenhire to the mound to take the ball from three different beleaguered relievers, who walked three and threw two wild pitches in that inning.
Liriano threw 104 pitches, so that was it for him after seven hits, two runs and one walk. He struck out five, but the struggling Twins needed more than that. Their starters are 2-6 with an ERA pushing 6, a problem compounded by the mere 14 runs produced in the past six games.
Notes: Minnesota's Joe Mauer, his rehabilitation from inflammation in the sacroiliac joint in his lower back forging ahead, will begin playing in rookie league games early next week. "Good and goosey" was Gardenhire's description of Mauer's status. ... Though rookie Travis Snider has been playing against right-handers and Bautista against lefties, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston won't call his LF situation a platoon. "Still early. There's still an opportunity," he said. "Even though it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, the duck's going to walk differently soon." ... Minnesota's crowded outfield conundrum has become a timeshare between Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young, with Denard Span playing CF while Young's in the lineup and playing LF next to Gomez. Gomez, in an 0-for-11 slide, sat out Thursday. "There's nothing they can do about it except come prepared to play," Gardenhire said.