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08/13/08 2:23 AM ET
Twins fall out of first with loss to Yanks
Minnesota looking up at Chicago after extra-innings defeat
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- The script didn't seem like it could have played out any better for the Twins in an improbable eighth-inning comeback on Tuesday night against the Yankees. They had managed to take away a potential victory from known nemesis Mike Mussina. They had tagged future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera for the club's first-ever home run off the vaunted closer. And yet, that big hit -- the go-ahead one to give the Twins the lead? Well, that just never quite came. After watching a three-run deficit erased in the eighth inning thanks to Delmon Young's home run that knotted the game, the Twins couldn't manage to complete that final strike against New York. Instead, it was the Yankees who erased the tie game in the 12th inning when Matt Guerrier gave up two home runs -- a solo shot to Alex Rodriguez and a two-run homer to Xavier Nady -- that handed the Twins a 9-6 loss. "A heck of a baseball game," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It didn't turn out our way at the end. We ran out of bullets there, but we battled. We battled pretty doggone hard." The loss cost the Twins their hold on first place in the American League Central as they once again fell a half-game behind the White Sox. Tuesday marked the fifth straight day there has been a different leader in the division. For the Twins, the focus was not on losing first place, but rather the disappointing end to a contest that had appeared so promising just a few innings earlier. The eighth inning began with Yankees left-hander Damaso Marte, who was acquired in a trade last month, on the mound. Mike Redmond doubled to left field off Marte leading off the inning. Rookie Randy Ruiz, pinch-hitting for Jason Kubel, followed with a one-out single to right field that put the tying run at the plate. That's when, like so many times before, the Yankees turned to Rivera for a five-out save, and up first was Young. In five career plate appearances against the Yankees closer, Young did not have a single hit. Rivera threw three straight fastballs to the Twins left fielder. The first two Young fouled off, but on the third consecutive 92-mph cut fastball, Young belted it down the right-field line. As the entire Twins dugout stood up to watch the line drive, the ball stayed just inside the right-field foul pole and hit the stacked blue seats to give Young an opposite-field three-run homer. Redmond, beginning his run from third, pumped both of his arms in the air as the crowd of 33,036 at the Metrodome delivered a raucous applause. "He's a strong, young man," Gardenhire said of Young. "He shot it the other way out of the ballpark. That's pretty impressive." It was the first blown save for Rivera this season. He had entered Tuesday's contest having gone 28-for-28 in save opportunities. Young's home run was also the first given up by Rivera to the Twins in 201 plate appearances. And it earned Young the first curtain call of his Twins career. "Obviously, we were excited," Redmond said. "It tied it up, and we felt we were back in the game." It was a feeling that hadn't really been in place for the Twins up to that point in the contest. Before Young's homer, it had appeared like another night of Mussina's dominance over the club. Entering Tuesday's start with a 22-6 record in 32 career starts against Minnesota, Mussina was on his way to moving into a tie for second place among the all-time career leaders in wins vs. the Twins. The veteran right-hander allowed just three runs over seven innings. He scattered eight hits, issued only one intentional walk and struck out five. And Mussina had some offensive support as his Yankees had built a lead off Twins starter Nick Blackburn, who had a rough night. Blackburn struggled for the second straight time against the Yankees. This time, he didn't make it out of the fifth inning, allowing four runs on six hits over 4 2/3 frames. He threw a total of 102 pitches over that time, including 31 in the fourth inning. "I just couldn't put anybody away tonight," Blackburn said. "That was the whole story." All of those earlier troubles, though, seemed to have faded by the time Young had belted his sixth homer of the season -- and third of the second half -- in the eighth off Rivera. But after the Twins managed to knot the game up, they couldn't seem to capitalize on the momentum shift. Instead, the two sides began a back-and-forth pitching battle over the next three innings. Considering how the Twins had managed their earlier comeback, this contest was theirs for the taking. But the consensus in Minnesota's dugout was the longer the game lasted, the slimmer the club's chances were for a victory. And that proved to be the case. "That's a tough offense to keep holding down," Redmond said. "You keep them down for two more innings and you're like, 'Let's go. We've got to score a run here.' ... It was coming down to who got the big hit, and unfortunately for us, it was them."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.