MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Twins have been desperate for reliable starting pitching all season long.
A pair of Triple-A callups this week gave Minnesota two strong starts. And now the Twins' offense also could use a lift.
Jose Bautista homered for the third time in two nights for the Toronto Blue Jays, and Drew Hutchison and four relievers held the Twins to a run and five hits in a 2-1 Toronto win on Saturday night.
The Twins were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position and are a major-league worst 9-24 after failing to win back-to-back games again, a feat they've accomplished just once this season on April 11-12.
"We're still lost," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You have to put together streaks. There's a better feeling out there in the dugout. It's disappointing tonight, but we had plenty of opportunities. We played a pretty decent baseball game. The last couple of games have been pretty entertaining to watch. Again, we missed a lot of opportunities tonight to score."
The Twins entered Saturday with an ERA by their starting pitchers of 6.57, easily the worst mark in baseball. Starters had allowed 127 earned runs in 174 innings.
However, Scott Diamond was recalled from Triple-A Rochester this week and threw seven scoreless innings in a 5-0 win against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.
P.J. Walters was called up a few days later and started Saturday in place of Francisco Liriano, who was moved to the bullpen.
Walters (0-1) allowed six hits in six innings, while striking out five.
"They've handled themselves well," Gardenhire said of Walters and Diamond. "We're looking for a shot in the arm to give us some innings. Our bullpen's beat to death out there and been throwing a lot of innings themselves. So, we're looking for innings and quality starts and we're getting them. We've got two so far. You need those if you're going to survive."
Walters was 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA at Rochester before his promotion. But in his first major league start since 2010, he allowed a sixth-inning solo home run to Bautista who has nine hits over his past 53 at-bats, but five of them have been home runs.
"I didn't change much from the way I've been pitching; throw strikes, get ahead early and just make good pitches when I need to," Walters said, but he lamented the home run he allowed to Bautista.
"Obviously a little nervous getting out there the first inning or so, a few too many pitches, that type of thing. After that I settled down and made some good pitches when I needed to. Just two outs, no men on base (for Bautista's homer), you've got to finish the inning better."
In his fifth appearance above Double-A, Hutchinson (2-1) allowed three hits with four walks and four strikeouts. Minnesota's run came in the fourth on a bases-loaded walk.
Francisco Cordero, Jason Frasor and Luis Perez combined for two innings of scoreless relief, and Casey Janssen picked up his second save in as many chances since taking over as closer for Cordero earlier in the week.
Notes: Twins slugger Justin Morneau (wrist) said he felt good after taking 25-30 swings off a tee before Saturday's game and was hopeful he'd be able to play once he's eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday. "We'll see once I start swinging more how everything goes, I'm pretty happy so far," the former AL MVP said. ... Bautista has 10 homers in 10 games at Target Field. He has 10 in 28 games at Fenway Park. "There's an energy that you feel that he will give off when he's swinging the bat like he's capable," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said before the game. "I think it just adds to the overall momentum that we can generate as a club and as a lineup." ... The Blue Jays and Twins wrap up their four-game series on Sunday when Toronto sends lefty Ricky Romero to the mound to face Minnesota's Scott Diamond.