See-saw game doesn't go Twins' way
Royals capitalize on costly miscues to even series
MINNEAPOLIS -- After Joe Mauer hit a home run and scored three runs in his return to the Twins' lineup on Friday night, everyone seemed eager to see what the All-Star catcher might deliver in his follow-up performance.But even Mauer's 4-for-6 night at the plate on Saturday couldn't help the Twins overcome a mistake-filled game at the Metrodome, one that ended in a 10-7 loss to the Royals in 11 innings -- thanks in large part to the bullpen issuing four walks during that final inning. On a night when both teams delivered their fair share of head-shaking moments in nearly 4 1/2 hours of baseball, the way that the contest ended seemed oddly fitting. With only two pitchers left in the bullpen at the start of the 11th, the Twins turned to left-hander Craig Breslow. He issued three walks, mixing in a fielder's-choice groundout, to load the bases before Minnesota called upon its seventh pitcher of the night and final option in the 'pen, R.A. Dickey. "It's not good when you have to bring a knuckleballer in with the bases loaded," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's not your ideal situation. Then we have to tell him, 'You've got to throw fastballs,' because Joe hasn't caught him in the knuckleball very much. Not the situation you want to be put in." And the results weren't ideal, either, as Dickey walked John Buck to force in the game-winning run. Kansas City added two more insurance runs, one on a groundout and another on a sinking liner to left field. All-Star Joakim Soria (1-0) finished off the win by holding the Twins scoreless in his first appearance in 10 days after resting his sore right shoulder. "A long night," Gardenhire said. "A lot of missed opportunities. A lot of bad plays. We ended up losing a game that we probably should have won. We had chances to get it done and we didn't get it done." Before Saturday's contest, Gardenhire said that his team had earned its 12-11 record at the time based upon the mistakes, particularly the mental ones, that had been made over the first month of the season. And on this night, Gardenhire got a good look at a great deal of those sort of miscues. They included the two-out hits given up by his starting pitcher, Glen Perkins. The left-hander struggled for the second successive start, giving up five runs on 10 hits over six innings, but it was the three RBIs he gave up with two outs that seemed to prove the most costly. One came in the fifth, when Willie Bloomquist tied the game at 3 on a solo home run -- the second baseman's first since June 6, 2007, a span of 290 at-bats. Perkins then allowed three hits with two outs in the sixth, including a two-run triple by Miguel Olivo on an 0-2 changeup. There were also some baserunning blunders, which included two of Gardenhire's players being thrown out at third base for the final out of an inning -- Alexi Casilla in the first and Nick Punto in the sixth. There were the two errors the club made in the field, after not having recorded an error in seven successive games. Punto's throwing error in the fourth didn't cost the club a run, but Casilla's boot of a routine grounder for what would have been the final out in the eighth allowed Kansas City to take a 7-6 lead. "That was a killer," Gardenhire said. But for all of those issues, the Twins were able to tie the game back up at 7 in the bottom of the eighth on Delmon Young's RBI single to right field off Royals right-hander Juan Cruz. Yet over the next two innings, Minnesota did not capitalize on having a runner in scoring position -- stranding a runner on second in the ninth and a runner on third in the 10th. It was the Twins' inability to take advantage of Brian Buscher's leadoff double off the right-field baggie in the 10th that was probably the most frustrating. After Carlos Gomez was unable to bunt him over, Buscher advanced to third base on a wild pitch by Soria with one out in the inning. Soria was able to get out of the inning unscathed by getting Punto to ground out to shortstop and Denard Span to ground to first base. The bullpen woes followed, with Breslow (0-3) experiencing control issues, and it ended up being another night of missed opportunities. After the contest, Punto acknowledged that the Twins can't afford to keep making mistakes if they are to reach their goals this season. "Championship-caliber teams don't make those mental mistakes that we have been making," Punto said. "For the Twins to get to the postseason, if you look back at the history, we do everything fundamentally sound, and we don't make too many mental mistakes."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.