Twins' rally falls short vs. Red Sox
Ponson gives up three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings
MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire spent the better part of Sunday morning trying to piece together a lineup, which due to injuries, would not feature two of his team's best hitters -- Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer.Battling a veteran pitcher like Red Sox ace Curt Schilling is a difficult task for any lineup, but when the team's usual Nos. 3 and 4 hitters are not available and the team's offense has already been scuffling, it makes it even more of a challenge. But the Twins will just have to get used to that. Following their 4-3 loss to Boston on Sunday afternoon, Mauer was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strain in his left quad muscle. "You have to do what you have to do," Gardenhire said. "Everybody has to step up and get it done. Obviously we aren't running our best lineup out there without Mauer and Cuddyer. Those are two of our big hitters in the lineup. Other guys have to step up and get it done. It's a little tough right now, but you just have to find a way to score runs when you don't have your people." Yes, the Twins likely will get Cuddyer back on Tuesday for the start of their series against the White Sox. Still, the games don't get easier as the list of opponents during Mauer's absence will include three against the Tigers at home, three at the division-leading Indians and three more in Milwaukee against the National League's top club so far this season, the Brewers. Still, the Twins were not all doom and gloom after yet another loss at home. Instead, the fight of this less than star-filled lineup on Sunday gave the Twins hope that they might not be in so much trouble. Even after falling behind early in the contest, as Sidney Ponson gave up four runs over his 5 1/3 innings, the Twins still managed to make it a tight race against a team that has been playing some of the best baseball in the American League. That's because after struggling to figure out Schilling for most of the contest, the Twins were able to finally get to the Sox ace in the seventh inning. Schilling (4-1) had allowed just five hits and one walk before starting the seventh, when he saw the Twins string together some hits and make a run at knotting the game. That's when Schilling loaded the bases with two outs before Jason Tyner lined a two-run single to right field that pulled the Twins to within two, 4-2. Tyner's hit ended Schilling's day as he was replaced by Hideki Okajima. But the hits didn't stop there as Torii Hunter, who had extended his career-high hitting streak to 21 games in the previous inning on an infield single off Schilling, then delivered an RBI single to right field to make it a 4-3 game. The Twins weren't able to finish off the rally as Justin Morneau continued his struggles hitting with runners in scoring position and two outs. This time, Morneau grounded out with the tying run at second base to end the inning. On the season, Morneau is hitting just .095 (2-for-21) in those situations. Though that in itself might seem cause for concern, Gardenhire feels it is in part due to pitchers delivering quality pitches against last year's American League MVP. "Look at the balls he's getting right now and they are right on the black and on the corners," Gardenhire said. "You go through those stages where they are just making pitches on you and obviously they are not going to give in to Justin because our lineup dictates that right now." Though the Twins were almost able to get Ponson (2-4) off the hook for a loss, the right-hander was still less than pleased with his outing. Ponson was upset about a play in the fifth inning. With runners on first and third and one out, Ponson was the recipient of a liner back to the mound from the bat of J.D. Drew. Ponson knocked down the one-hop bullet but dropped the ball and then hurried a throw to shortstop Jason Bartlett. The throw short-hopped Bartlett, eliminating any chance for a double play, but also allowed a run to score while not recording a single out. Two batters later, another run would score on a fielder's choice and gave the Red Sox a 4-0 lead. It was a mistake that Ponson admits ultimately proved very costly. "If I just stay under control and do what I'm supposed to do, it would have been a whole different inning," Ponson said. "After the game, you can see what cost us the game and that's what cost us the game today." Mistakes are something that the Twins will have to limit as they work with a lineup that will be less than 100 percent. Missing the reigning AL batting champion is clearly a blow to the Twins, but it's one that they are determined not to let dictate how they will play over the next two weeks. "This game doesn't wait for guys who get hurt," catcher Mike Redmond said. "Games still go on and there is going to be nine guys out there playing. All we can do is go out there and continue to grind it out. ... We've been piecing it together and nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We just have to continue to go out there and win some games."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.