09/07/09 6:32 PM ET
Rough first inning dooms Blue Jays
Offense can't overcome early hole in loss to Twins
By Larry Millson / Special to MLB.com
Richmond, trying to make a place for himself in next year's starting rotation, gave up a walk and five hits before retiring a Minnesota Twins batter in the first inning. As a result, the Twins were ahead by five runs before the Blue Jays had a chance to swing the bat.
Richmond (6-9) settled down after that but it was too late for him, and too late for the Blue Jays. The Twins came away with a 6-3 victory before a crowd of 13,153 on Monday at Rogers Centre in the opener of a four-game series.
It was all about poor location of his pitches, Richmond said.
"It was just frustrating," he said. "I couldn't believe that I couldn't get an out. I made some decent pitches and they still hit them. It was just of those innings you've got to forget."
Twins starter Jeff Manship did not pitch the necessary five innings to qualify for the win, however. He allowed seven hits, including Jose Bautista's fourth home run of the season, one of three runs allowed in 4 1/3 innings. The fourth Twins pitcher, Jesse Crain (5-4) retired all four batters he faced, three by strikeout, and was awarded the win. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his 37th save.
Richmond, who hasn't won since June 24, lasted six innings and allowed eight hits, six runs, three walks and struck out two.
"The first inning killed him," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "He pitched great after that. He's been getting into those kind of games where he has one bad inning. He gets himself in trouble. He hasn't won a game for a while and it's because of that one inning most of the time."
"In my previous games, [the rough inning] was in the middle of the game," Richmond said.
He is 0-4 since missing 30 days in July due to biceps tendinitis.
"My arm feels fine," he said. "It's nothing to do with injury, it's just poor location, plain and simple."
He started the game by walking Denard Span. Nick Punto singled and took second on the throw as Span went to third. Joe Mauer singled in both and also took second on left fielder Travis Snider's throw.
"We've got to hit the cut-off man there," Gaston said. "Just to make them think about stopping anyway, although they might not."
Justin Morneau singled to right to score Mauer. Jason Kubel doubled and Michael Cuddyer singled in a run. Another run scored when Delmon Young forced Cuddyer at second for the first out of the inning.
"It was frustrating," Richmond said. "I was just trying to keep my composure and just try to make the adjustment and execute the pitch better."
He did retire 13 batters in a row before giving up a run on Span's single in the sixth. Richmond walked Brian Buscher with two out and Alexi Casilla singled him to third.
By then, the damage from the first could not be undone.
"Just poor pitch selection when I'm ahead in the count and catching too much of the plate," Richmond said. "I want to come in and be aggressive and let them know I can throw strikes."
But as he said, "You can throw strikes, but not down the middle. You know what I mean. Go to edges..."
Once he was out of the first, he wanted to go as deep into the game as he could to preserve the bullpen.
"I wanted to go in and shut down the rest of the game and go as deep as I could, I was able to do that," he said. " I just wanted to be aggressive and to pound the strike zone like my game plan was from the get-go."
The Blue Jays scored one run against Manship in the third on Adam Lind's sacrifice fly. In the next inning, Hill left the game because his wife. Elizabeth, went into labor. Joe Inglett moved from right to second base and Bautista entered the game to play right field. John McDonald replaced Inglett at second in the eighth.
Bautista gave Toronto's its second run with his homer on a 3-2 pitch with one out in the fifth. Manship did not survive the inning and lost his chance to qualify for the win when Bobby Keppel replaced him after Lind's single and Lyle Overbay's double put runners at second and third. Vernon Wells' infield single back to Keppel scored a run.
The Twins are still trying for a spot in postseason play while the Blue Jays' hope for meaningful late-season games disappeared long ago. But there is still meaning to these games for players like Richmond.
"I want to cement a spot in the rotation," he said. "I want to show that I can pitch and shut teams down at this level and help the team win. Try and keep the team in it. "
Larry Millson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.