TORONTO -- After struggling in the extreme heat at Wrigley Field in his season debut on June 30, lefty Adalberto Mejia was given a bit of a respite in his second start of the season, pitching in the climate-controlled Rogers Centre against the Blue Jays on Monday night.Mejia fared much
TORONTO -- After struggling in the extreme heat at Wrigley Field in his season debut on June 30, lefty Adalberto Mejia was given a bit of a respite in his second start of the season, pitching in the climate-controlled Rogers Centre against the Blue Jays on Monday night.
Mejia fared much better this time out -- throwing 5 1/3 strong innings -- while the offense was powered by three hits from Joe Mauer and Mitch Garver and homers from Logan Morrison and Max Kepler in an 8-3 win to snap a three-game losing streak coming out of the All-Star break.
"I think I did my job today," Mejia said through an interpreter. "I went out there and executed my pitches for 5 1/3, and we got the win. Thankfully, I had my sinker, fastball and changeup all working."
Mejia, who had a 4.50 ERA in 21 starts as a rookie last season, scattered eight hits and two walks with three strikeouts. He registered eight swinging strikes on 97 pitches, and the lone run he surrendered came on a homer from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the third.
Twins manager Paul Molitor would've liked to see Mejia be more aggressive in the zone -- 60.1 percent of his pitches were strikes -- but came away mostly pleased with the results.
"I thought he was good," Molitor said. "Command wasn't great. I thought he got a little too fine at times, especially with a lead to work with. He had some three-ball counts and walks, things like that. His fastball-changeup combination was good. His slider wasn't as good. But to get into the sixth inning and only give up one run, you have to be pleased with that."
Mejia pitched well enough that he could get another look in the rotation despite the return of right-hander Ervin Santana on Wednesday. Mejia could also see more of an opportunity in the second half if the Twins decide to trade a starter, such as Lance Lynn, before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Mejia had the benefit of pitching with a lead, as Mauer started an early Twins rally with a double to open the game before scoring on a triple from Eduardo Escobar. Morrison plated two more runs with a two-out single in the third.
"It was good to see Morrison go the other way there and get one through," Molitor said. "I thought LoMo did a nice job of getting in a full count and then fighting that ball out there for two RBIs."
The Twins scored twice more in the fourth, keyed by three straight hits, including an RBI single from Mauer. Escobar added his second RBI with a single to left. Minnesota essentially put the game away with a three-run fifth. Morrison led off with a solo homer, and Kepler connected on a two-run homer two batters later.
"It was a curveball," Kepler said. "Kind of right down the middle, low. I struck out the two at-bats before that and felt like I was swinging too hard. So I put an easy swing on that one to put it in play and it snuck out."
Mejia found himself in a jam in the sixth, loading the bases with nobody out. He struck out John Smith looking, but was removed for reliever Matt Belisle. Belisle escaped the inning, and it was the closest the Blue Jays would get to rallying back. Toronto didn't score again until the ninth on a sacrifice fly from Yangervis Solarte and an RBI single from Kendrys Morales off closer Fernando Rodney.
"You're trying to stay away from a crooked number there," Molitor said of the sixth. "We said going into the inning we'd have somebody ready if it got to the fifth batter. He loaded the bases but got that big strikeout there. It set up for Matty to come in and do a really nice job. Getting five big outs."
ESCOBAR, DOZIER, ROSARIO LIFTED EARLY
With the Twins up by seven runs, Molitor opted to lift Escobar from the game in the seventh inning, while James Dozier and Eddie Rosario both exited in the eighth. Escobar and Dozier are both trade candidates, but Molitor explained after the game it had nothing to do with any imminent moves.
"Just looking for guys to get a little bit of a blow," Molitor said. "After the three games down in Kansas City and a travel day off the turf, just trying to give some guys a couple innings off there. I thought it was probably a good time to do that."
Mejia has only completed six innings four times in 23 career starts. His start on Monday was tied for the sixth-longest in his career. His longest career start is seven frames.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Center fielder Kepler was credited with his second five-star catch of the season, robbing Randal Grichuk of extra bases to open the third with a running grab up against the center-field wall. Kepler had to cover 113 feet in 5.9 seconds, giving it a catch probability of 18 percent, per Statcast™. It essentially saved a run from scoring, as Gurriel followed with a solo homer six pitches later.
"The catch was good," Molitor said. "The ball tailing away from him like that. He had a pretty good awareness of where he was at. He kind of deflected into the wall rather than crash, which was good. But he still had to extend to make the catch."
HE SAID IT
"If they have, I'm the last to know because I haven't heard a thing." -- Molitor, on if Escobar or Dozier were traded.
Fresh off his first career All-Star Game appearance, right-hander Jose Berrios (9-7, 3.68 ERA) will start for the Twins in the second game of the series against the Blue Jays on Tuesday at 6:07 p.m. CT at Rogers Centre. Berrios threw a scoreless inning in the Midsummer Classic, and the Twins gave him extra rest as the club's fifth starter out of the break. The Blue Jays will counter with lefty Ryan Borucki (0-1, 3.52).
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.