Twins get pinched, drop finale
Radke solid over seven, but Minnesota's offense struggles
BOSTON -- The Twins were in the exact same situation after Sunday's 4-3 loss and series sweep against the Red Sox that they were in before the day even started.Regretfully, that was true in more ways than one. As the trade deadline came and went, no bat was added to boost the sagging offense. Meanwhile, that sagging offense continued to do what it's been doing, squandering chances to score for its pitcher. "A tough baseball game, again. Over and over again," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. Since the Red Sox also did not make a deal, it allowed them to use enigmatic slugger Manny Ramirez as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the eighth inning against reliever Juan Rincon. Ramirez had been benched this weekend while his team pursued a trade. As David Ortiz was intentionally walked to put runners on first and second in a 3-3 tie, 34,929 fans at Fenway Park erupted with a standing ovation when Ramirez emerged from the dugout. Ramirez hit a bouncing single through the middle that scored Edgar Renteria with the go-ahead run. It was the kind of go-ahead run the Twins have thirsted for and have rarely found during a rough 12-16 month of July. The club has not won a road trip series in nearly two months, going 0-6-1 since beating Arizona June 7-9. "It's not very fun to watch," Gardenhire said. "Guys were in position to knock in runs today. We're just not getting big hits when we have to. It's really disappointing." Same went for starting pitcher Brad Radke, who is winless in last four starts while posting a solid 2.79 ERA and is a loser of seven of his last eight decisions. Radke has tried to hold his displeasure in check lately, but vented after another tough luck day. "It's frustrating, yeah," said Radke, who gave up three runs and six hits in a seven-inning no-decision. "We had our shots and it just didn't happen. We should have walked out of here with a win today, but same old story." Radke allowed back-to-back home runs to Ortiz and John Olerud in the fourth inning to go down by a 2-1 score, but Boston didn't have a batter up with runners in scoring position until the seventh inning. Kevin Millar drove in Olerud with a sacrifice fly. Meanwhile, Minnesota repeatedly shot itself in the foot against Jon Papelbon, a rookie pitcher making his Major League debut, and an assortment of relievers. It went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position Sunday and lowered its average in those situations to a paltry .213 for the dismal 3-8 road trip. After Jacque Jones sacrifice bunted Terry Tiffee to third for the first out of the seventh, Justin Morneau swung at a 3-1 Mike Myers pitch outside the strike zone. Morneau grounded back to the mound. Nick Punto was on first base with one out in the eighth when Shannon Stewart doubled off the Green Monster in left fielder. Punto was nearing third as weak-armed center fielder Johnny Damon retrieved the ball, but third base coach Al Newman held the speedy runner from trying to score. "I didn't know who had the ball," Punto said. "I just picked up the third base coach and he put up the stop sign. I'm just trying to score there. Obviously, he felt we didn't have a chance." "They got it back in really quick," Gardenhire said. "By the time it did, I don't think Newmie had a chance [to wave on Punto] as it turned out." Punto never got beyond third. Later in the inning with the bases loaded, Tiffee fell into a 1-2 hole and made a bad swing while striking out against Mike Timlin (4-1) to end the inning. "There was no way Nick should have been held up at third base," Radke felt. "You've got to send him home. The way our offense has been struggling, we have to make something happen. He should have been home. He would have been safe, too." It was the kind of day perfectly encapsulated the Twins' 11 bumpy days on the road. "We had right hitters coming up there, the big guys," Gardenhire said. "And they didn't come through. It's just over and over again and you wonder when it's going to stop. You wonder when you're going to drive in a run and get a big hit." The Twins needed a strong showing on this road trip to get confidence for the stretch playoff run. Instead, they never found a consistent offensive groove, they couldn't make a trade and they lost top run producer Torii Hunter to injury in the process on Friday. Now they have drifted further away from the postseason. Minnesota is percentage points ahead of the Indians for third place in the American League Wild Card race and for second in the AL Central. But this likely is the same team they're going with for the rest of the way. "I'll tell you what, we need some help," Radke said. "It didn't happen. That's frustrating, too."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.