08/10/08 9:07 PM ET
Doubly painful loss
Twins waste Baker's solid outing, fall out of first place
By Mark Dent / MLB.com
Teammates talked in whispers, if at all. Only one player bothered with the spread of food immediately after the game.
A road trip was finished, but that was about the only joy.
The Twins left for home with a bullpen full of dead arms, a first-place spot gone and questions going through their heads about a 5-4 loss in 12 innings to the Royals that, no matter how they look at it, should've been prevented.
"Easiest way to describe that ballgame," manager Ron Gardenhire said, "is we gave it away."
The loss ends a 3-3 road trip for the Twins that was rife with problems. It started with a 10-run inning in a loss to Seattle and a bad performance from Joe Nathan, and ended with Sunday's loss.
The game took four hours and six minutes before the Royals sealed the win in the 12th. There was no way this one should've taken so long, but Minnesota gave the Kansas City almost all of its runs.
There was the sixth inning when no one covered first base, the eighth inning when shortstop Adam Everett threw the worst ball he can remember this season and, of course, there was a wild pitch in the same inning.
It didn't help that the Twins couldn't get the big hit after filling the bases with walks. Twice, they left the bases loaded. For the game, Minnesota received nine free passes and knocked out only seven hits.
Perhaps the Twins could've used a clutch-hitting lesson from the Royals' designated hitter, Tony Pena. Yes, the one who hadn't gotten a hit since July 3. He came into the game for Billy Butler in the eighth and got two hits in the extra innings. His second one scored Mark Teahen for the game-winning run and brought his average to .157.
And think, it might've been totally different had Everett made the routine play he's completed hundreds of times in his career.
Ross Gload hit a ground ball to Everett at short with two outs and a runner on third. Everett threw the ball high enough that first baseman Mike Lamb had to jump. Gload was safe, the game was tied at 4 and Nathan wouldn't get the opportunity for the save.
"You can slice it and dice it and try to word it any you want," Everett said. "It cost us this game."
That was just the last mistake. Earlier in the inning, Dennys Reyes hurled a wild pitch that scored a run. Other problems came in the sixth.
Teahen bunted with a runner on first, and pitcher Scott Baker and Lamb both went after the ball. Baker got it with the idea of throwing to second, then changed his mind and threw to first. But there was a problem: Lamb didn't cover.
Lamb said he and Baker had worked on plays like that one since Spring Training, and the pitcher usually ran to first himself in those situations. Second baseman Nick Punto rushed over to cover, but didn't quite get there in time. Baker's throw rolled away, and a run easily scored.
"Our first baseman should've gone back to the bag," Gardenhire said. "He was just standing there flat footed."
His throwing error aside, Baker pitched well on the day. He gave up just those two runs in seven innings, and said he kept the ball down better than in his last start.
The bullpen relieved him in the eighth inning and, because of the many mistakes, Matt Guerrier, Reyes, Jesse Crain and Craig Breslow all had to pitch.
A series against the Yankees starts Monday, and not too many arms will be fresh.
"When you play terrible defense," Gardenhire said, "that's what happens."
A game like this was waiting to happen for Minnesota. The Twins won Friday and Saturday, but toyed with disaster each time by not finishing off scoring opportunities and barely getting out of several jams.
Sunday was the worst yet, with the previous problems plus all of the defensive miscues. Minnesota is usually known for executing as well as any team in baseball.
Sunday was certainly not the usual. Far from it. And it's not something the Twins can afford to do again if they want success in the pennant race.
"You're not going to see this very often," Baker said. "That doesn't make it any better. It still stinks."
Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.