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Twins have no one to blame but themselves

Knight Ridder Newspapers

CLEVELAND -- The Minnesota Twins can blame themselves.

Not just for the three big mistakes that cost them Wednesday night's 10-inning, 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field.

More than that, they can blame their four-year run of success in the American League Central for escalating the division arms race to heights that now pose a serious threat to their once-dominant position.

The Twins learned in three games just how imposing Cleveland's nuclear bullpen can be.

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When Cleveland starter Kevin Millwood was forced to leave the game because of a strained groin in the fifth inning, that should have been a good thing for the Twins. And would have been against most teams--or against last year's Indians, who ranked third from the bottom in the league in bullpen performance.

In a battle of AL Central bullpens that would have been a mismatch in recent years -- against any opponent in the division -- the Twins lost for the second time in three games in Cleveland, all decided in the final inning.

This time it was the Twins' all-star closer, Joe Nathan, blowing a save for just the second time this season when he gave up a second-pitch home run to Ben Broussard leading off the bottom of the ninth.

A second mistake came in the 10th, when setup ace Juan Rincon walked the leadoff batter, Victor Martinez. That turned into the winning run when Travis Hafner spanked a hanging 2-2 slider from J.C. Romero the opposite way into left field to drive home pinch-runner Ronnie Belliard from second with the winning run.

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