Twins 4 Blue Jays 1
TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays hit a new low Wednesday night, and for a change it didn’t come on the field.
Only 11,159 fans were on hand as Canadian slugger Justin Morneau homered off Roy Halladay in the eighth inning of a 4-1 Minnesota Twins victory, the smallest crowd in the history of Rogers Centre. The previous low of 12,571 came on April 30, 2002 versus Texas, when the building was still known as SkyDome.
“In order to get back to where we’re going we certainly need our fans out here,” said manager Cito Gaston. “We need their support, hopefully they’ll realize that and come out and support us.”
The sparse gathering underlines the growing indifference toward the Blue Jays (62-77) amid this latest meaningless September. At least in recent years they made a habit of finishing out the season strong, offering at least a glimmer of hope for the next year, but they’re 3-7 so far and avoiding 90 losses will be a challenge.
Clearly the Blue Jays must soon do something to revive the interest of their fan base.
“I still think the guys are going out there trying as hard as they can,” said Gaston. “You can only do so much. They’re still the same guys that are hitting and the same guys that are not hitting.
“They’re trying, that’s all you can ask them to do.”
The fans who did show up Wednesday were treated to a gem of a ball game, featuring an outstanding pitching duel between Halladay (14-9) and Carl Pavano (12-11), some stunning defence and some timely hitting.
The key blow came off the bat of Morneau, who broke a 1-1 tie by clubbing Halladay’s first pitch to the seats in right-centre. The solo blast gave the New Westminster, B.C., native 30 homers in a season for the third time and 100 RBIs for the fourth time.
“I’ve been struggling for a while,” said Morneau, who hadn’t homered since Aug. 25. “Hopefully it’s something that gets me going, gets us going.”
Pinch-hitter Michael Cuddyer put the game out of reach with a two-run double in the ninth, stroking an 0-2 pitch deep to left-centre, leaving Halladay visibly irked afterwards.
“It was a frustrating game,” he said tersely. “You win those games 6-4 you’re happy. I know I made mistakes that cost me and that bothers me, but any time you’re not winning games it’s frustrating.”
Orlando Cabrera tied the game 1-1 with a solo shot leading off the sixth while Joe Nathan closed things out for his 38th save as the Twins (70-69) kept some heat on the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers.
Travis Snider brought home the only Blue Jays run with a double in the fifth after Edwin Encarnacion opened the frame with a triple. They were otherwise inept at hitting with runners in scoring position, particularly in the eighth when lefty Jose Mijares struck out Adam Lind and got Lyle Overbay on a weak grounder to the mound to strand the tying run at second.
“Pavano did a good job of making pitches when he needed to,” said Snider. “(Halladay) gave us a chance to win the ball game but we couldn’t get it done offensively.”