Diamond pitches well, but Twins fall in final game

Diamond pitches well, but Twins fall in final game

Diamond pitches well, but Twins fall in final game
TORONTO -- It was another season, and another last place finish for the Twins in the American League in 2012, after finishing in the AL cellar in '11.

In the final game of the year, it was only fitting that Scott Diamond pitched well in his first-ever start in his native Canada, but the Twins' offense couldn't back him up in a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Diamond, who has been the club's only dependable starting pitcher this season, gave up just two runs on five hits and a walk over five innings. The rookie left-hander finishes the year with 12 wins and a 3.54 ERA in 27 starts.

But it was another loss for the Twins, who end the season on a five-game losing streak to finish with a record of 66-96, which is just three games better than their 63-99 finish in 2011.

"Some good things happened but not enough good things," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "So I told the guys in there to keep working at it, and go home this winter and work on what we need to improve on to get back to where we need to be."

The Twins end the season with the worst record in the American League for a second consecutive year, to mark the first time the club has accomplished that dubious feat since 1999-2000. And the two losing seasons are coming after the Twins took the division crown in 2010 with 94 wins.

Their 96 losses are the fourth-most in franchise history since the club moved from Washington to Minnesota in '61. It also marked the first time that Minnesota lost more than 95 games in back-to-back years.

There could be some changes on the horizon for the Twins, as they could decide to shake up their coaching staff. And general manager Terry Ryan also still has the interim label attached to his job title. But Gardenhire said that'll all be decided in time.

"It was a disappointing season, and everyone knows that," Gardenhire said. "We'll take a few days here and relax before heading to the org meetings and talk about where we go from here."

Diamond, who grew up in nearby Guelph, Ontario, gave up both of his runs in the third, as Rajai Davis brought home Anthony Gose with a single before stealing second and scoring on a single from Adeiny Hechavarria.

He bounced back after taking a liner to his left calf on the first batter he faced, but it began to tighten up on him, so the club took him out for precautionary reasons.

"I let my Canadian heritage shine a little bit by kick-saving it to first base," Diamond joked.

But it was still another impressive outing from Diamond, who is the only Twins pitcher guaranteed a rotation spot next season.

"The first time coming home and having all the people in the stands, the adrenaline was running a little more than usual, but I felt like I did a pretty good job of controlling it for the most part," Diamond said. "I can't be too disappointed with the way it turned out."

The two runs were enough for Blue Jays right-hander Brandon Morrow, who allowed just one run on three hits over eight strong innings. Ben Revere picked up all three hits against Morrow, who struck out 11 batters and walked three.

"It always feels good to pitch a game like that, to have it be the last, end on a high note and get a win," said Morrow, who finishes the year with a 2.96 ERA. "We all go home happy."

Minnesota scored its one run against Morrow in the fourth, when the Blue Jays failed to turn a potential double play hit by Matt Carson with the bases loaded and one out.

Toronto again failed to turn a double play in the sixth, as Trevor Plouffe grounded into what looked like an inning-ending double play, but the throw from Hechavarria wasn't on target to first baseman Yon Gomes.

Plouffe hurt his foot trying to beat out the throw and was replaced by Alexi Casilla as a pinch-runner. But Morrow was able to get out of the jam by striking Carson out to end the inning.

Casilla ended up singling with one out in the ninth, but Brandon Lyon was able to pick up the save to put an end to Minnesota's disappointing season.

But Joe Mauer, who set a career high in games played with 147, said there's reason to be optimistic for next year, despite the club's struggles for a second straight year.

"I think we're just a couple pieces away," Mauer said. "Guys in here battled all season long. It's all you can really ask from these guys. Gardy had a nice talk after the game, thanking everybody for getting after the game. It's definitely appreciated. We're working toward getting back to where we're supposed to be."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.