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08/26/08 2:55 AM ET
Twins dealt 11th-inning loss
Closer Nathan suffers fourth blown save of season
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- The Twins' late-inning bullpen woes continued on Monday night. But this time it wasn't the eighth inning when the Twins watched a lead disappear. After welcoming back left-hander Eddie Guardado by having him pitch a perfect eighth inning to hold a one-run lead, the Twins saw things fall apart in the ninth. All-Star closer Joe Nathan suffered just his fourth blown save of the season, and his second in Seattle, as the Mariners scored one run in the ninth to send it to extra innings. Unlike previous blown saves by Nathan, the Twins weren't able to stage a comeback. They lost for the first time this season when heading into the ninth with a lead as Adrian Beltre blasted a two-run homer in the 11th off right-hander Jesse Crain to hand the Twins a 4-2 loss at Safeco Field. While it was another late-inning loss, this one felt different as the Twins were able to get to their closer without any problems. Delmon Young broke a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning on a two-out RBI single. With runners on first and third, Young delivered a hit to right field that scored Joe Mauer. That's when Guardado was sent in for the eighth after Matt Guerrier hurled a scoreless seventh inning. Earlier in the day, the Twins acquired Guardado from Texas in a waiver trade to give them another veteran option in the setup role leading to Nathan. Before the game, manager Ron Gardenhire said he would mix Guardado into the eighth inning depending on matchups and which pitchers had been used in recent days. With two of Seattle's three hitters being lefties, Gardenhire chose Guardado, who impressed in his return, for the eighth. He pitched a perfect inning, getting three consecutive popups while throwing just 11 pitches. "That's what I'm here for," Guardado said. "I try to do the best I can. Hopefully, everything works out and I keep pitching the best I can to help this team win." This time, it was Nathan who could not hold the lead, due in part to a defensive miscue. It was Beltre who also set up the tying run in the ninth, when he led off the inning with a double to center field. A fielding error by shortstop Nick Punto then put runners at first and third with no outs. That's when Nathan said that he had to do a bit of damage control to try to get out of the inning. "You have to get a little lucky in those situations to try and keep the guy from scoring at third," Nathan said. "I got a ground-ball double play and was able to keep the game going. So you know, it's one of these outings right there where you can't be too upset with it." Beltre scored on pinch-hitter Jeff Clement's double-play grounder to knot the score at 2. But Nathan then got Kenji Johjima to strike out swinging to send the game into extras. The game was tight heading into the ninth, thanks to an early pitchers' duel between the Twins' Francisco Liriano and the Mariners' Miguel Batista. Both starters allowed just one earned run on five hits over their six innings. The Twins tagged Batista in the third inning on Alexi Casilla's two-out RBI single. Seattle then tied the score in the fifth inning, when Miguel Cairo doubled to left, scoring Jaime Burke from third base after he advanced on a two-base throwing error by Casilla during an attempted steal. While the Twins had chances to tag Batista for more runs early, against J.J. Putz in the 10th and R.A. Dickey in the 11th, they could not get a runner on base. And after pitching a scoreless inning in the 10th, Crain absorbed his second loss in two days when Beltre belted his 21st homer of the season over the left-field fence and into the Twins' bullpen for the walk-off win in the 11th. The loss prevented the Twins from maintaining a tie atop the American League Central with the White Sox. They instead dropped a game behind Chicago. Despite the loss, there still was a feeling at the end of the day that the Twins were much better off than when they left Anaheim on Sunday night. "The move they made today makes us a lot deeper," Nathan said of getting Guardado. "Anytime you can get a guy to help you out -- especially in close games in the late innings -- it's nice to have. We feel like we have some arms now, especially from the seventh inning on. We feel like we can finish out some games. Unfortunately tonight wasn't one of those cases but we've got a long stretch to go. And it's nice to have Eddie on board."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.