MINNEAPOLIS -- Time couldn't seem to go by fast enough for Matt Garza as he sat in the Twins clubhouse and watched the clock prior to his first Major League start. If only things had seemed that slow once he got on the mound. Time certainly didn't stand still for Garza after the first pitch as the Blue Jays tagged him for seven runs on eight hits in just 2 2/3 innings of work and the Twins lost their second straight to Toronto, 7-1, on Friday night. It also dropped the Twins to 1 1/2 games behind the White Sox in the AL Wild Card race.
"It was a little more than I expected," Garza said of his debut. "I tried to play calm, but when I got out there and heard the crowd, the adrenaline got going really high, really fast and that's when the nerves kicked in. I couldn't stop shaking after that first inning." Feeling a little overamped was something that the Twins expected from Garza. So it was no surprise that things didn't go exactly as planned. But despite the immediate case of nerves, Garza looked strong at the start, striking out two of the first three batters he faced. That's as good as it would get. With one runner on and two outs, Garza (0-1) walked the next batter and then gave up a two-run double to Lyle Overbay that gave Toronto an early 2-0 lead. A two-run homer by Reed Johnson in the second inning, paired with an RBI single by Troy Glaus, quickly made it a 5-0 game. And things didn't get better in the third, when Garza gave up his second two-run blast to John McDonald for the Jays shortstop's third homer of the season, setting a new career high. Without an ability to consistently use his breaking ball, and relying only on a fastball, Garza was a bit of a sitting duck against the top hitting team in the American League. The 22-year-old Garza had gone through quite a whirlwind ride to get to the Majors, rising all the way from Class A Fort Myers, where he started the year. Still, despite the ugly numbers in his debut, there was something about Garza's makeup that showed in the way he reacted to his outing. "I think it's the best way to break in," Garza said of facing such a good hitting club. "It doesn't give me any false confidence. It kind of lets me know what I have to work on the next time out. I just have to keep on working." That kind of attitude was something Garza displayed to his teammates when he returned to the dugout to root on the club even after getting shelled. That feeling wasn't something Garza had experienced much this year after going 14-4 with a 1.99 ERA in 23 Minor League starts. "It's his Major League debut, he gets knocked around for the first time this year, and it doesn't affect him," Michael Cuddyer said with a bit of awe. "He comes back down and cheers for his teammates. You don't see that from a lot of veterans, let alone guys in their first start." Though the Twins bullpen was able to hold the Jays quiet after Garza's exit, the offense couldn't get anything going for the second straight game. The Twins were able to stave off their second straight shutout by Toronto thanks to back-to-back doubles by Luis Rodriguez and Jason Bartlett in the seventh inning. It ended a streak of 17 1/3 scoreless innings for the team. "We've run into a little bit of a buzz saw," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They are pitching good and shutting us down. We've got to shut them down, too. And we didn't do that tonight." Garza may not have performed exactly as he hoped in his Major League debut, but he will get another shot in five days to prove that his first start was just a chance to get all of the nerves out. The Twins are relying on Garza to help them in the midst of a tight pennant race, and there's optimism that he will be able to deliver better the next time around. "It's never easy pitching in the big leagues, and we have a good hitting team, too," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "But he's got everything he needs. He'll be a good pitcher -- you can just see that in him."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.