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04/17/08 1:17 AM ET
Twins rally to nip Rays
Minnesota offense picks up struggling Hernandez
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Following their two-game sweep by the Tigers, the mood on the Twins' team plane back to Minnesota on Tuesday night was decidedly upbeat. Despite having blown leads in the eighth inning on two straight nights, the Twins left Detroit feeling confident that they could compete with one of the toughest teams in their division. "I thought we played good baseball on this road trip for the most part," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We lost some games late. But we were getting after the game pretty good. Even in the games in Detroit, when we got behind late, we kept playing and they had to get us out at the end." Returning home on Wednesday night, the Twins finally staged an eighth-inning comeback of their own, pulling off a 6-5 victory over the Rays at the Metrodome. Entering the eighth with the game tied at 5, the Twins rally was started by a pair of players who spent last season playing for Tampa Bay. Delmon Young delivered a single to center field to lead off the inning. With one out Brendan Harris then singled to right field, advancing Young to third and putting the go-ahead run just 90 feet from home plate. That's when the real turning point in the game occurred. Mike Lamb came to the plate, and on the first pitch he saw from right-hander Dan Wheeler, hit a ball to deep left field, about 10 feet into foul territory. Rays left fielder Carl Crawford chased down the ball and made a diving catch for the out. Crawford's play would normally be deemed great, except that there was only one out in the inning. Sprawled out to make the catch, Crawford was unable to make the throw home in time to beat Young, who tagged up and scored on the sacrifice fly. "I didn't know if it was fair or foul, I was just trying to get an out," Crawford said after the game. Young, who moved to left field from right this season, is still adjusting to the position inside the Metrodome, but he already knows the difficulty in fielding that type of ball in this ballpark. "[As an outfielder], you just try to make sure you can find the line, and if you can't get around it, just try to let it drop," Young said. "It's tough with this dome to look up and judge and see where the line is and pick the ball back up." The miscue by Crawford gave the Twins a 6-5 lead. The club then turned to Joe Nathan for the ninth as he picked up his fifth save of the season. Getting to their closer was something that the Twins had not been able to do the last two days, but this comeback was made possible by a strong effort from their bullpen. Dennys Reyes and Juan Rincon combined to pitch two scoreless innings after starter Livan Hernandez gave up five runs, three earned, over six innings. For the second straight night, home runs were a problem for the Twins' starting pitcher. Four of the five runs given up by Hernandez came courtesy of the long ball. "You don't give up home runs, you don't pitch," Hernandez said. "The guys over there hit the ball good. They hit two home runs off breaking balls, mistakes of top of plate. But that is a good-hitting team." Crawford belted a one-out solo shot in the third inning off Hernandez, and Eric Hinske added another in the fourth. A fielding error by second baseman Harris in the sixth, which allowed Hinske to reach base, also proved costly. One out later, Shawn Riggans hit a two-run blast over the left-field fence to knot the game at 5. Riggans' home run came after the Twins had taken a two-run lead in the bottom of the fifth. Joe Mauer delivered one of his three singles on the night to center field, scoring Carlos Gomez from second. Rays starter James Shields then walked Justin Morneau and yielded a wild pitch to put runners on second and third with two outs. Both Mauer and Morneau would then score when former Twin and current Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett made a throwing error on a ground ball hit by Young. For Mauer, it was his first three-hit game of the season. The strong offensive night for the catcher continued his turnaround after a recent rough stretch in which he went 0-for-12 and even broke one of his batting helmets. "I'm getting there," Mauer said when asked if he feels comfortable at the plate yet. "Tonight I felt good. Like I said, I'm just going to try and continue to feel good." This victory may have been derived from a bit of luck as well, thanks to Crawford's mistake. "It's a play where judgment probably tells you let the ball fall if you can't throw him out," Gardenhire said. "But he's just trying to make a play. "But we'll take that though."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.