MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins could have used a lift after learning on Thursday night that they will be without rookie All-Star Francisco Liriano for possibly the rest of the season. Unfortunately, they didn't get that lift. With their starting staff in a bit of flux, the Twins have looked to each starter to deliver the kind of performance that keeps the team in the game. That's what they felt they got on Thursday from Carlos Silva.
But unlike so many of their recent games, when the offense has been able to come up with a rally when needed, this time the club was shut out by the Blue Jays in a 5-0 loss at the Metrodome. "We came out a little flat," Michael Cuddyer said. "We couldn't get started and we got in those situations where we couldn't get the big hit, which is something in the past couple months and couple weeks we haven't been accustomed to. But it happens." Part of the reason for that on Thursday night was an outstanding performance by Toronto left-hander Ted Lilly. The Twins offense was able to make the starter throw a lot of pitches, as he had 107 in six innings, but couldn't find a way to make good on them. With a deceptive changeup, a looping curveball and a strong slider in his repertoire, Lilly (10-10) kept the Twins off-balance for his entire outing. The left-hander allowed just three hits and two walks in six innings. "He shut us down," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Lilly. "We've been able to figure out most people we've been facing, a little bit at least, but he just shut us down." Even though Lilly didn't give the club many opportunities, the Twins had their best chance to knot the game up in the sixth as they trailed the Blue Jays, 2-0. The Twins had runners on first and second with no outs after back-to-back singles by its table setters, Luis Castillo and Nick Punto. But the heart of the Twins' order couldn't do anything to drive them in as Lilly retired Joe Mauer, Cuddyer and Justin Morneau in a quick 1-2-3 sequence. Even after Lilly's exit, the Twins weren't able to get anything done at the plate. In the team's 10th shutout of the year, the offense combined for a total of four hits while drawing just two walks. Only three times all night did the Twins have a runner in scoring position. "Their whole staff pitched us very well," Gardenhire said. "What did we get, four hits? You're not going to win very many games with four hits." Not being able to get anything going offensively was a disappointment after the Twins got another strong start from Silva, who has turned his season around after a rough first half. Silva (8-10) looked quite dominant at the start of his outing, as he did not give up a hit to the Blue Jays until the leadoff batter in the fifth inning. That single by Lyle Overbay would prove costly, though, when one batter later, catcher Bengie Molina hit a two-run blast off Silva to give Toronto a 2-0 lead. It was the lone mistake for Silva, in terms of pitches, but a miscommunication between Silva and Mauer in the seventh would make things worse. After a hard-hit single by Eric Hinske to start the inning, Toronto blooped its way to a bases-loaded situation. That's when Mauer called for a sinker. But Silva delivered a slider away that got away from the catcher for a wild pitch to score one run. Another bloop and then a two-run single would put the game out of reach. Still, the Twins got what they were looking for out of Silva. "I thought he did what he was supposed to do," Gardenhire said. "He got ground balls. When he's getting ground balls, sometimes they're at people and sometimes not. But we're going to be pleased when he's getting ground balls like he did tonight. "It's very tough to have Francisco out," Silva said. "But it's not because he's out right now that I say I have to step it up. I try to step it up even in Spring Training. Always, no matter what, I try to step it up. Right now is a time where we have to continue playing and picking each other up -- as a team." The Twins know the kind of mission they have with the Wild Card in their grasp. Every game counts now, but that doesn't seem to be anything new. "It's been that way for the past two months," Cuddyer said. "We had to just try to dig ourselves out of the hole that we put ourselves in early, and now we've got ourselves in a position where we're out of the hole. So we have to continue to play the way we've been."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.