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08/01/09 1:21 AM ET
Dome magic not there for Twins in extras
Twins bullpen gives up six-run 11th to rallying Angels
By Tyler Mason / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Newly acquired shortstop Orlando Cabrera couldn't make it to the Metrodome in time for Minnesota's series opener against the Anaheim Angels. Unless he was ready to pitch, his arrival might not have mattered in the grand scheme of Friday's game. The Twins bullpen gave up six runs in the 11th inning -- five of which came before an out was recorded -- as Minnesota blew a 5-2 lead and dropped the opener, 11-5, to the Angels. Usually reliable in his role as the Twins' setup man, reliever Matt Guerrier surrendered a solo homer to the Angels' Mike Napoli to start off the eighth inning. Although Guerrier retired the next six batters he faced, the blast by Napoli did the damage and tied things at 5-5, completing the Angels' comeback from a 5-2 deficit. Things only got worse for Minnesota's bullpen in extra innings, as Bobby Keppel and Jesse Crain each gave up three runs in the top of the 11th. Neither recorded an out in the process. "Obviously, put it on me," Keppel said. "This is the worst feeling I've had. I'm the one that set the pace for that inning. I didn't get the job done." Keppel (0-1) had been solid in relief after getting called up in late June, throwing more than 11 innings before giving up his first earned run. But after taking the loss Friday, he's now allowed nine earned runs over his past five appearances. One of Keppel's biggest problems of late has been his lack of command on his sinker, his best pitch. "I'm just not commanding it the same way I did when I first got up here," Keppel said. "I need to do a better job of that." Keppel walked leadoff hitter Erick Aybar on four pitches to begin the 11th, and the rest was downhill from there. He then gave up singles to Gary Matthews Jr. and Reggie Willits before being taken out of the game. "What really gets a rally going is what Aybar did," Willits said. "He saw some pitches, so the rest of us could see what [Keppel] had, and his walk set up everything that happened after that." "Today, the first four pitches were nowhere near the zone," Keppel said. "And then the next two guys, it's too late by that point. When you have a leadoff walk like that, you're asking for a bad inning." Crain didn't fare much better in relief, surrendering three hits before getting the hook. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey came in and recorded all three outs in the inning, but not before the Angels put up six runs on the board to put the game out of reach. "Too many mistakes in the strike zone against those guys," Gardenhire said. "You walk the leadoff guy in the last inning and stuff starts going haywire." Kevin Jepsen (3-2) pitched two scoreless innings for the Angels to earn the victory. The Twins got 6 2/3 innings from starter Nick Blackburn, who left in the seventh after giving up four runs on 12 hits. Blackburn allowed two runs in the first, but calmed down to hold the Angels scoreless over the next five innings. Things started to unravel for the Twins starter in the seventh, as Willits reached to lead off the inning and crossed home on a groundout by Maicer Izturis. Bobby Abreu then belted a solo shot to right-center on an 0-2 count, cutting Minnesota's lead to 5-4. "Those middle innings, I felt pretty good," Blackburn said. "I was on top of my pitches. Later in the game, I got a little back to where I was in that first inning. I'm not sure why that is, but I think I was trying to force pitches." For Blackburn, Friday's start was his first since getting hit hard by the Angels on the road last Saturday, when he gave up six runs in the fourth inning. But back at the Metrodome Friday, Blackburn's team put up five runs on Angels starter Ervin Santana. Joe Mauer's 18th home run of the season gave the Twins a 3-2 lead in the third. Mauer took Santana deep to right-center for a three-run blast, scoring Alexi Casilla and Denard Span who reached on a walk and single, respectively. The bottom of the lineup came through for the Twins an inning later to provide what at that point were two insurance runs. After center fielder Carlos Gomez sprayed a double down the right-field line, Nick Punto drove him in with a triple to the gap in right-center that rolled all the way to the wall. Span then dropped a double into shallow right that fell short of Abreu, scoring Punto for a 5-2 Minnesota lead. The blown lead for the Twins came just over a week after another come-from-behind victory for the Angels, when the two teams faced off in Anaheim last Thursday. The Twins had a 5-3 lead in that game and wound up losing 6-5 the 10th. "Those guys are really a good scrappy team," Crain said. "When they get some momentum like that, it's kind of hard to put them out of there."
Tyler Mason is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.