Jays drop 12-inning affair in Minnesota

Jays drop 12-inning affair

MINNEAPOLIS -- Tuesday night's game at the Metrodome revolved around perfect placement of the ball.

Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum had perfect pitch placement, keeping the Twins off the board for the first six of his eight-plus innings.

Twins starter Scott Baker placed his pitches perfectly in his seven-plus innings of work.

But it was Jeff Cirillo's perfectly placed pinch-hit bloop single in the bottom of the 12th inning that mattered the most. The ball fell just short of a hard-charging Vernon Wells, and Michael Cuddyer crossed the plate to give the Twins the 2-1 victory.

"It was probably going to come down to something like that, either that or a big blast," catcher Gregg Zaun said. "Everybody was pitching well tonight and it was who was going to flinch first. I mean, we're talking a matter of inches from missing Vernon's glove."

The hard-fought loss for the Blue Jays snapped a four-game winning streak and evened their four-game series with the Twins even at one game apiece.

"We've won a few games on those kind of hits, so that's just part of it," manager John Gibbons said. "It was a great battle. On Cirillo's part, he just put it in the perfect spot."

Marcum's eight innings tied his career high and he gave up just one earned run on six hits. But for the sixth time in his last nine starts he did not factor into the decision. In four of those no-decisions, Marcum has given up no earned runs.

"He mixes his pitches very well, and he's not afraid of [any] lineup and he just pours it in there every night and takes his chances, which is just tremendous," Zaun said. "He's just absolutely fearless when he goes out there."

While his won-lost record (4-2) isn't stellar, Marcum has impressed his team with his recent performances.

"He's turned into a heck of a pitcher," Gibbons said. "And he made a couple defensive plays tonight. Every pitcher out there on both sides was really good tonight. He gives us a chance to win every time we go out and that's the main thing."

Marcum didn't attribute his success to just one pitch or anything specifically Tuesday night, just a desire to put as many zeros on the board as it took for his team to win.

"It's all right," Marcum said. "I'm not worried about my wins, just as long as the team goes out there and can win."

It wasn't only Marcum's pitching that was shutting down the Twins -- his defense, as Gibbons noted, was important as well.

Marcum fielded two bunts in the first inning and then in the sixth, he fielded a sharp comebacker off the bat of Jason Bartlett. He immediately turned and threw to second to start a impressive double play.

The Jays also got a big play out of right fielder Alex Rios, who after catching Mike Redmond's flyout in the seventh, fired home to Zaun. The Jays catcher just nicked Torii Hunter's batting glove hanging out of his back pocket on a close play that got Twins manager Ron Gardenhire ejected for arguing.

But the dominating pitching and solid plays weren't just coming from Marcum and the four relievers the Blue Jays used. Baker was pitching a gem of his own.

Baker held the Blue Jays to just four hits and one earned run over his seven-plus innings, and he had a career-high nine strikeouts. Toronto was hitless until Wells led off the fourth inning with a double.

"He kept changing speeds," Gibbons said. "He was on and he was hitting spots just like Marcum was. There was great defense on both sides. It was just one of those games."

The Blue Jays offense just couldn't get anything going, especially in extra innings. They struck out 15 times and no hitter managed more than one hit.

"Scott threw his butt off -- it was just one of those games where we couldn't get any runs and they couldn't get any runs," Marcum said. "They ended up scratching a little harder and getting it there at the end. "

Frank Thomas went homerless for his second straight game, leaving him stranded at 499 career home runs.

"It's a tough way to lose, plus we were on a little bit of a winning streak there and we would have liked to keep it going," Zaun said. "We'll just have to start a new one tomorrow."

Leslie Parker is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.