Twins crumble in the eighth
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire keeps getting asked how his underdog team has kept itself in the race this year, and he usually starts with two words:...
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire keeps getting asked how his underdog team has kept itself in the race this year, and he usually starts with two words:
The Twins put those to work again Sunday after blowing another eighth-inning lead in a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
A four-game series that started so promisingly ended in a split. Chicago came back to defeat Tampa Bay, bouncing the Twins from first place for the fifth time this month.
The visiting clubhouse at Angel Stadium was nearly silent as the Twins departed for Seattle, but first baseman Justin Morneau said the loss would be behind them, "hopefully, by the time we get to the airport."
Morneau had three run-scoring hits, including his 20th homer, as the Twins built a 3-0 lead against Ervin Santana.
It was 3-2 in the eighth, then Vladimir Guerrero tied it with a run-scoring triple off Jesse Crain that sailed over the head of center fielder Carlos Gomez.
Gary Matthews Jr. followed with another run-scoring triple, and Juan Rivera added a sacrifice fly before Los Angeles closer Francisco Rodriguez came on for his 50th save.
"Right now, everything's do or die, but we're not going to win every game the rest of the way," Morneau said. "We've got 32 games left. If we go 20-12, we're looking at (94) wins. I think we'll be right there for the division lead or even the wild card."
The real test, Morneau said, is how the Twins play tonight in Seattle, where they blew two late-inning leads last month.
The Twins have lost six games that they led after seven innings. So they have plenty of practice at this. They kept those first five heartbreakers from sending them into extended funks.
"I think we have a great mix of older guys like (Mike Redmond), Mike Lamb, Adam Everett and Joe Nathan to remind us that every game does matter," Twins pitcher Kevin Slowey said. "And also we have a good mix of young guys like (Carlos) Gomez and (Alexi) Casilla _ the day after a tough loss, they're out there dancing in the dugout."
Of course, the big concern is the bullpen. This 14-game road trip started with a confidence-builder, as Matt Guerrier pitched two scoreless innings and Crain pitched one in Thursday's 2-1, 12-inning victory.
This time, Slowey held the Angels to two runs in 6 innings. Clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire turned to Crain instead of Guerrier after Mark Teixeira hit a leadoff double off Dennys Reyes.
Guerrero was 1-for-6 against Crain, 0-for-6 against Guerrier.
"(Crain) had one inning (Thursday) where he just blew people away," Gardenhire said. "We wanted fastballs in that situation. Matty had a good outing (Thursday), and we're not going to push it as much as we can. We're going to use them both. Jesse's got the gas, and that's what we wanted."
All series, the Twins tried pumping fastballs in on Guerrero's fists. Crain's first pitch did just that, and Guerrero hit a lazy popup that landed just beyond Morneau's reach.
Crain's second fastball was supposed to be inside but wound up outside.
"To any other hitter, it's probably a good pitch," Crain said. "But he can reach that part of the plate and hit it pretty good."
Too good, in fact. Something the Twins just tried to forget.