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Minnesota shortstop Alexi Casilla can't make the play on a single by Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion during the fifth inning Saturday. AP Photo/Frank Gunn

Twins' early struggles continue in 6-1 loss at Toronto

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Twins' early struggles continue in 6-1 loss at Toronto
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TORONTO (AP) -- The new season is just two games old, but the Minnesota Twins' bullpen could already use a break.

For the second straight game, Minnesota's starting pitcher failed to make it out of the fifth inning. Francisco Liriano was chased after 4 1-3, allowing four runs and four hits in a 6-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.

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"That's not our plan," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We're already running guys out there back to back. That's too many pitches from our bullpen and not enough from our starters."

Kyle Drabek pitched seven innings of one-hit ball to earn his first major league win, and Jose Molina and Jayson Nix hit solo home runs for Toronto.

Minnesota's bullpen has pitched 7 2-3 innings in two days after Carl Pavano lasted just four innings in Friday's season-opening 13-3 loss.

"It's never too early to be concerned," Gardenhire said. "I'm always concerned about killing our bullpen. We're getting a lot of people a lot of work and we don't need to be doing that this early. We need better performances, we need deeper games. It's only two games but still, it's concerning. We've got four innings and 4 1-3. That's not good enough."

Right-hander Nick Blackburn will start for the Twins in Sunday's series finale against Blue Jays lefty Brett Cecil.

"I sure would like to see Blacky go a little deeper tomorrow," Gardenhire said. "That would be nice."

Drabek (1-0) didn't allow a hit until Denard Span's one-out single to left in the sixth, but followed that by striking out Tsuyoshi Nishioka looking and getting Joe Mauer to ground out.

Even after looking at his single on video in the clubhouse, Span wasn't sure what pitch he'd hit.

"It was a cutter, I think," Span said. "I don't know. That's how nasty (Drabek) was today. I just saw the ball and reacted. Thank God we didn't get no-hit today."

Drabek, who went 0-3 in three starts last September, allowed one run, walked three and struck out a career-high seven but said he didn't feel like he had his best stuff.

"The control of my pitches wasn't the best today," he said. "It was just the situations when I needed a good pitch, it was there. That helped me out a bunch."

Catcher Molina said Drabek's cutter was his most effective pitch.

"He had a great cutter today," Molina said. "He used it at any time, 3-2, 3-0. Any type of situation, we used it."

The son of former NL Cy Young winner Doug Drabek and the first player acquired in the Roy Halladay trade to reach the majors with Toronto, the right-hander gave up just one fly ball and got 12 ground ball outs, including one double play.

"Definitely a tough day," Span said. "Nobody put the bat on the ball good off this guy."

Shawn Camp pitched the eighth and Marc Rzepczynski worked the ninth as Toronto improved to 30-12 against Minnesota since the beginning of the 2006 season. The Blue Jays have won 15 of 20 home games against the Twins over that span.

Molina opened the third with a homer that bounced off the top of the wall in left and Nix made it 2-0 with a one-out drive to left in the fourth.

The Blue Jays chased Liriano in the fifth. Jose Bautista drew a one-out walk and Kevin Slowey came on in relief after Adam Lind singled. Edwin Encarnacion greeted Slowey with an RBI single and, one out later, pinch-hitter Travis Snider laced a two-run double to right.

Liriano (0-1) walked five, struck out three and fell to 0-3 with a 5.09 ERA in four career games against Toronto.

Toronto tacked on one more in the eighth against Matt Capps. Molina, Mike McCoy and Escobar all singled to load the bases for Aaron Hill, who hit a sacrifice fly to left.

Minnesota's only run came in the fourth when Nishioka walked and stole second, went to third on a grounder and scored on Justin Morneau's ground ball.

After going 0 for 4 Friday in his return from a concussion, Morneau went hitless again but drew a walk in the seventh.

Notes: Blue Jays CF Rajai Davis was scratched from the lineup and replaced by McCoy. Davis rolled his right ankle while evading a rundown in the first inning Friday. He took batting practice Saturday but had trouble pushing off. ... Lind's fifth-inning single was the 500th hit of his career.

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Pioneer staff reports
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