Twins lose in walk-off fashion again

Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria (3), Matt Joyce (20) and teammates swarm Johnny Damon, third from left, after his game-winning RBI off Minnesota Twins pitcher Jose Mijares during the ninth inning Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Rays won 4-3.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Scott Baker did the damage control. Denard Span and Jason Kubel did damage at the plate and on the bases. The Minnesota Twins looked headed for their fifth victory in 14 games — a win that would have been much needed.

Then Twins manager Ron Gardenhire turned to his bullpen, and he watched his three best relievers fail.

The Twins were walk-off losers to Johnny Damon and the Rays again Saturday in a 4-3 loss at Tropicana Field. Damon's line-drive single to right off lefthander Jose Mijares scored B.J. Upton to cap a late-inning comeback for the second time in the series.

Before that, Gardenhire watched Matt Capps give up a run in the eighth and closer Joe Nathan give up a game-tying homer to Ben Zobrist in the ninth. Gardenhire had to pull Nathan after he walked two batters following the homer.

The visitors' clubhouse was silent as the Twins pondered their 4-10 record and official awful start to the season,


"We don't want to dig ourselves too deep a hole," Nathan said. "This is something we're going to have to start to figure out a way to get some W's. You keep digging and digging. It is going to be a lot harder to climb out of this.

"Keep grinding keep working, It can't keep going like this all the time."

Capps and Nathan have faltered in the same game twice this series and, in turn, have made Damon look like a savior. With a walk-off homer Thursday and the RBI single Saturday, Damon has five consecutive games with game-winning RBI for the Rays, the most since Anaheim's Troy Glaus did it six times in a row in May of 2002.

Kubel homered in the second inning, Luke Hughes' double-play grounder brought in a run in the third and Span's RBI triple in the fifth gave the Twins a 3-1 lead through seven innings. After a strong performance by Baker, Gardenhire pulled his starter after seven innings of one-run ball on four hits and 96 pitches thrown.

Baker admitted he rarely tries to talk his way into another inning but said he felt pretty good after the seventh.

Gardenhire went to his bullpen — and it let him down for the second time in this series,

"We got to our two closers, Gardenhire said, "and it didn't work out."

Gardenhire admitted that he did consider using Mijares in the eighth inning since Tampa Bay had six left-handed hitters in the lineup and no dangerous right-handed hitters on the bench.


But he went with Capps because of his pedigree.

"When you set up your bullpen with Matt in the eighth and Nathan in the ninth, you want to start changing all of a sudden?" Gardenhire said.

"I trust Matt Capps. He's a closer. If you look at the eighth just like the ninth he's a closer. If you start putting lefties in there what are you gonna do with Cappsie? He has to work. He has to get back out there.

"I could put Mijah out there. He was out there with lefties in the game. How'd you like that?"

Matt Joyce made it 3-2 in the eighth with an RBI single, setting up the ninth-inning comeback for the Rays.

"Those things take the wind out of you at the end of the game," Gardenhire said, "but you have to figure out how to bounce back tomorrow."

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