09/04/08 1:47 AM ET
Twins not panicking after tough loss
Minnesota falls one game behind Chicago in AL Central race
By David Singh / MLB.com
There was a very relaxed atmosphere in the room as Bob Marley played on the clubhouse speakers. Many of the players were smiling and chatting with each other -- none of which are usually present in a losing clubhouse.
There was not a hint of doom and gloom in the air, even considering the Twins had committed critical defensive miscues, which lead to two blown leads in Wednesday's game.
Adding insult to injury, Minnesota (77-62) finds itself one game back of Chicago, which defeated Cleveland during an afternoon affair, in the American League Central.
None of this seemed to bother the Twins, though.
"I think these guys have a lot of courage," said manager Ron Gardenhire. "They have short memories. We'll show up tomorrow and play. We're a game out of first place, we're in September, and I think a lot of teams would like to be where we're at. A lot of people think the world is ending, but it's not for this clubhouse.
"The world is not ending for this clubhouse. We'll be back and ready to play tomorrow."
The Twins are now 5-8 on their current 14-game road trip with one game remaining before returning home. Even worse, however, is that they have now dropped eight out of their past 11 games.
With only 23 games left in the season, the Twins know that they have no choice but to play themselves out of this mini-slump if they hope to secure a playoff berth. Closer Joe Nathan, who could not convert on his save opportunity in Wednesday's contest, looks at this as a test for the young Minnesota team.
"It's a tough stretch right here," Nathan said. "Baseball is going to throw some things at you, and this is a time that you have to show some true character. The good teams find a way to grind through this, keep their heads above water and keep in a race.
"We're one game back, we're still in this thing and we've got a lot of positives. We know it's going to turn around for us."
Although Wednesday's game ended in a tough loss, the Twins displayed much fight. However, the team eventually ran out of steam in the 11th inning, when Twins reliever Eddie Guardado entered the game and allowed a leadoff double to Scott Rolen, who then advanced to third base on a single by Travis Snider.
With no outs and runners on first and third base, Boof Bonser was brought in to rescue Guardado. Bonser didn't fare much better, though, as he allowed a long single to John McDonald, who stroked a pitch deep into center field, pushing across the winning run for Toronto (72-66).
The Twins had led the game, 4-3, entering the ninth inning, when Nathan came in for the save and subsequently walked Gregg Zaun to lead off the frame. Two outs later, Snider lined a single into right field that Jason Pridie bobbled. Pridie's miscue allowed pinch-runner Curtis Thigpen to score from first base, tying the game.
Pridie -- who was making his Major League debut -- said that he found much support from his teammates despite the costly error.
"I messed up today," Pridie said. "It's tough, but everybody has been telling me, 'It's a team game. We did this, it's not you.'
"Every single person in here said to, 'Keep your head up, keep your head up.' That makes it real nice."
Earlier in the game, the Twins had come back from a 2-0 deficit on a bases-loaded double by catcher Joe Mauer, who drove in three runs. That lead was erased in the seventh inning, though, on a fielding error by shortstop Nick Punto, which allowed the Jays to push across a run and tie the game at 3.
The Twins gained the lead again in the ninth inning off Jays closer B.J. Ryan, when pinch-hitter Brendan Harris beat out an infield single, plating Justin Morneau with the go-ahead run from third base. But that lead was erased when Nathan could not complete the save.
"It just didn't work out in the end," said Gardenhire. "We ran out of bullets."
Lost in the outcome of the back-and-forth game was a rather strong outing from Twins starter Nick Blackburn, who earned a no-decision. The right-hander allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits over 6 2/3 innings. He walked none, struck out six and is now winless in his past five starts.
"Obviously, no one is happy about what happened," Blackburn said of the loss. "But we're a young team and we're going to bounce back. We don't know any better. That's what we're doing and that's what got us in this [pennant race].
"I don't think anybody is worrying at this point. We've got a lot of the season left."
David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.