TORONTO -- It wasn't exactly the Opening Day the Twins hoped for heading into the 2011 season.
It was supposed to be a pleasant homecoming for Canada native Justin Morneau, who was making his return from last year's season-ending concussion he suffered on July 7 in Toronto, while being backed by dependable veteran right-hander Carl Pavano on the mound.
But instead of starting out the year on a positive note, the Twins got off to a rough start with a 13-3 loss to the Jays on Friday at Rogers Centre in the season opener for both clubs. It marked the most lopsided Opening Day loss for Minnesota in franchise history, as a 9-0 loss to the Red Sox in 1995 was previously the biggest margin of defeat.
It all unraveled quickly for the Twins, with the Jays tallying four runs in the first inning against Pavano, who struggled mightily in his second career Opening Day start. Pavano said he could tell in his bullpen session before the game that he just didn't feel right, and it certainly showed in one of his rougher outings while with the Twins.
"I'm frustrated that I wasn't able to make any pitches and was up in the zone and inconsistent with everything," Pavano said. "They made me pay and I didn't get away with anything. It's unfortunate I couldn't get us out on the right foot."
It was a wild first frame that began with an infield single from Rajai Davis, who was nearly picked off by Pavano but made it back safely to first base on a botched rundown by the Twins. It was poorly executed all around, as Morneau got rid of the ball too soon, Tsuyoshi Nishioka threw the ball to first too late and Pavano wasn't in proper position at first base.
It proved to be a costly mistake, as Yunel Escobar singled and Jose Bautista walked to load the bases for Adam Lind, who was hit by a pitch for the game's first run. Aaron Hill and Edwin Encarnacion added sacrifice flies before Nishioka made an error on a hard-hit ground ball from Travis Snider to give the Jays their fourth run of the inning.
"It just kind of snowballed from there," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "We didn't pitch very good and didn't follow the plan with what you got to do with these guys. They swing the bat, so if you leave the ball over the plate, they're going to kill you. So we didn't do a good job with that tonight, and we didn't play good defense. It was a bad night all the way around."
As Gardenhire noted, it only got worse for the Twins and Pavano, who served up a two-run homer to J.P. Arencibia in the fourth inning before giving up back-to-back solo homers to Bautista and Lind in the fifth. The blast from Lind knocked Pavano from the game after he allowed eight runs, seven earned, on six hits, two walks and a hit batter over four-plus innings.
Right-hander Jeff Manship relieved Pavano in the fifth inning and didn't fare much better, walking two batters before allowing two runs to score on a triple from Arencibia over the head of a leaping Denard Span in center field.
The Twins' offense, meanwhile, was mostly non-existent against Jays left-hander Ricky Romero, who kept them off balance until he hit a rough patch in the seventh inning. The Twins scored their first run in that inning on a fielding error from Encarnacion at third base, before Alexi Casilla brought home a run with an RBI double and Span added an RBI groundout.
"[Romero] had some angle on his fastball, hitting the outside corner and throwing hard," said designated hitter Jason Kubel, who went 1-for-4 with a run scored. "He mixed up some changeups and sliders all over the place. So he's their ace for a reason. He's real tough and makes you work."
Romero allowed three runs, one earned, on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings while striking out seven and walking none.
"Any time you come out of a game with no walks, it just shows you you're attacking the strike zone, you're making pitches when you're supposed to make pitches, and I'm proud of that," Romero said. "That's one of the things I'm hoping to cut back on this year, and to be able to come out and have a no-walk game and have a good game on top of that makes it that much better."
The Jays weren't done scoring, either, as Arencibia added his second homer in the eighth inning off left-hander Dusty Hughes to cap off a career day at the plate with two homers, a triple and five RBIs. Lind also added an RBI that inning, while John McDonald concluded the scoring with a sacrifice fly.
With the game seemingly out of reach, Gardenhire decided to take Joe Mauer out in the eighth inning in favor of backup catcher Drew Butera to give him extra rest, as he is coming off minor surgery on his left knee. Mauer is expected to be in the lineup on Saturday.
Gardenhire kept Morneau in for the entire game, and he was pleased to see him make his return even though he went 0-for-4 at the plate with three runners left on base.
"He was out there, so that was probably the biggest thing," Gardenhire said. "He played and got through it, so we'll go from there."
So, while it was a tough loss for the Twins to swallow, the club lost on Opening Day the previous two seasons but still managed to win the American League Central both years.
"We'll get a new day tomorrow and we'll go right after it," Pavano said. "What else are you gonna do? We have a lot of baseball left."