Santana strong, but Twins fall again
Offense sputters in two bases-loaded opportunities
MINNEAPOLIS -- After seeing the Twins not score a single run against the Tigers on Tuesday night, outfielder Michael Cuddyer issued a bit of an ominous warning.Despite the fact that their ace Johan Santana was starting in Game 2 of the series, Cuddyer knew that the offense couldn't sit back and relax. "To be able to come back with him on the mound is great, but even he can't win when we don't score any runs," Cuddyer said. The Twins didn't go scoreless again on Wednesday, but they definitely didn't provide the type of offensive support that their ace needed. It was a night full of missed opportunities for the Twins, as they left 14 men on base and couldn't convert in critical situations at the plate in a 3-2 loss to the Tigers. "We had plenty of opportunities to come up with a big hit, we just never did," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The disappointing part is that we put so many men out on the bases and had opportunities. But their pitchers made some pitches when they had to and we chased some bad pitches out of the zone. And unfortunately for us, it comes up with another one-run loss." It's the third straight game that the Twins have fallen to the Tigers by just one run. And instead of gaining ground in the division race, the Twins have instead watched Detroit extend its lead with a couple of heartbreaking losses. "Deflating is a great word because you're so excited and you want to come out and have a great series against these guys -- and we've played well, just not well enough," Cuddyer said. Pitching duels dominated the previous two contests against Detroit and Santana delivered a solid effort on his end, pitching eight innings and giving up three runs on just five hits. But just like the night before, Santana was hurt by a man who has quickly earned the nickname "Twins killer." Magglio Ordonez drove in the Tigers only run on Tuesday night with an RBI single and continued his offensive assault one night later, tallying all three RBIs for the Tigers' off Santana. A two-run double by Ordonez in the fourth inning helped the Tigers to an early 2-0 lead. And after the Twins pulled with in one, thanks to a Justin Morneau hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded in the fifth, Ordonez extended the lead with a homer in the sixth off his fellow Venezuelan. "The home run, I was trying to throw a fastball away or a sinker away and it came back down the middle," Santana said. "Like I said, when you make mistakes like that, and you have a pretty good hitter out there, they're going to do damage. That was the case tonight. That's how they won the game." Santana might have made a mistake but it was his offense's inability to convert that gave him his first career loss to the Tigers following the All-Star break. The ace certainly gave his best effort, grinding out the eight innings while throwing 118 pitches. But the Twins, who tallied a total of 10 hits in the game, could manage just two runs for Santana. Despite knocking rookie starter Andrew Miller out of the game after the fifth, the Twins were only able to get one run off the southpaw and squeezed out just one more off Detroit's bullpen. A lack of run support is nothing new for the Twins ace. In each of Santana's seven losses this year, the Twins have scored three runs or less. And this was the fifth time the club has scored just two runs or less. But unlike the previous two games, this paltry offensive effort wasn't due to a lack of opportunities. With the Tigers pitchers seeming to have trouble hitting the plate at times, the Twins were able to get players aboard the bases. The trouble was converting on those chances. Just consider the numbers -- four times the Twins stranded a runner at third base, twice they left the bases loaded and three times they saw a leadoff batter reach base, but were unable to score a single run in those innings. One of the more frustrating opportunities came in the seventh inning when the Twins had the bases loaded with just one out. Jeff Cirillo came to the plate and knew that his job as a veteran hitter was to at least drive in the tying run. But in the end, Cirillo chased a pitch up in the zone and popped up to the catcher. Lew Ford then came to the plate and flied out to center to leave the Twins still trailing by one. And afterward, Cirillo could only lament about the inability of the offense to pick up its starters after delivering such strong outings. "You feel like you wasted two good pitching performances," Cirillo said of the two losses. "They shut down that team over there for two nights in a row. I mean, five hits tonight -- you can't really ask for anything more. The offense carries [the blame] on this one, and I personally had a huge at-bat and didn't come through." In the end, it was a 3 1/2-hour contest that resulted in yet another defeat for Minnesota. The Twins now trail Detroit in the American League Central race by eight games. So for as much as the team has gleaned from getting stellar pitching performances in each of the losses, it doesn't seem to amount to much when the deficit continues to grow. "There's a silver lining and it's nice, but at the same time, we need wins," Cuddyer said. "We can't really worry about we were close, we played well, we played good; we've got to win. That's what it boils down to."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.