© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
09/09/09 12:25 AM ET
Twins unable to come back against Jays
Rocky sixth inning spells doom for Minnesota
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
TORONTO -- Sitting 6 1/2 games back of Detroit in the American League Central race on Sept. 8, the Twins know that it will take some help from other ballclubs for them to legitimately have a shot at another division title. But when the Twins can't pull off wins of their own, the need for help from others becomes a little more desperate. Such was the case on Tuesday night when the Twins watched an early lead -- and the chance for a rare winning streak in Toronto -- disappear in the sixth inning thanks to the Blue Jays' six-run inning that resulted in a 6-3 loss for Minnesota at the Rogers Centre. At a time when every loss seems to diminish Minnesota's postseason hopes even further, this one really seemed to hurt. "The only thing we can control is winning," starter Brian Duensing said. "If we win, we don't have to worry about anybody else. But when you play a tough game like tonight, you can't help but wonder what everyone else is doing." While the Twins were watching their own lead falter, the scoreboard inside the ballpark showed that the Tigers were winning and there was a chance that their deficit would once again grow. Yet the Twins got a gift -- this time from a Royals comeback win over the Tigers -- to ensure that they would remain 6 1/2 games back. Still looking at the way that things unfolded for the Twins in Tuesday night's contest, one couldn't help but think that their chances at making a run are slipping away. For five innings, it looked like the Twins might have finally found the right mix of pitching and offense that's been eluding them recently. Duensing looked poised to continue his string of strong outings since joining the rotation, holding the Blue Jays scoreless through the fifth, while his club's offense had built a 3-0 lead off Toronto's talented rookie starter Ricky Romero. But all of that came to a crashing halt in the sixth inning when the Twins pitching suddenly went awry. Duensing faced three batters and didn't retire a single one, loading the bases before being replaced by right-hander Jon Rauch. Rauch had found early success in Minnesota, having not allowed a run in his first four appearances for the Twins, totaling four innings. But on this night, things would not go so well for the newcomer. Following a sacrifice fly to score one run for Toronto, Rauch (2-1) walked Kevin Millar to load the bases once again. Edwin Encarnacion followed with a hard shot that took a funny bounce and ricocheted off the glove of Twins third baseman Brendan Harris, scoring two runs to knot the game at three. But the biggest damage of the inning came two batters later when John McDonald hit just his second home run of the season, a three-run dinger into the left-field corner, to put Toronto up, 6-3. "I [stunk]," Rauch said afterward. "If I tried to make a pitch, I left it in the zone and it was up. I gave them too many pitches to hit." Prior to the start of the sixth, Duensing had appeared to be rolling though his outing with relative ease. He had allowed just four hits through five innings and had even worked his way out of a jam in the fourth when he gave up a leadoff double. Then came the two hits and a walk to start the sixth, forcing the Twins to look to their bullpen a little earlier than expected "He was really good up to that point but all of a sudden, he fell apart," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Duensing. "He ran out of gas pretty quick." Early on in the contest, it looked like Romero (12-7) could be the starter to falter as the Twins scored three runs off Toronto's rookie in the first three innings. Despite Denard Span getting picked off third base in the first inning, the Twins still managed to score a run in the frame. Jason Kubel drew a two-out walk and then scored on an interference call when Justin Morneau's double down the right-field line was mistakenly handled by one of the ballpark's security guards. The top of the Twins' order delivered three straight hits to start the third, which included Kubel's two-run double to make it a 3-0 lead. But after that hit, Romero seemed to settle into his outing. He allowed just two hits after that, lasting 6 2/3 innings while giving up just the three runs on seven hits. While the Twins would put a few baserunners on over the final few innings, the club never was able to really muster a threat. After Harris was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning, Gardenhire turned to pinch-hitters Jose Morales and Joe Mauer in an attempt at some sort of comeback but it fell short as neither recorded a hit. So after snapping a seven-game losing streak in Toronto on Monday, the Twins couldn't find a way to make it back-to-back wins in Canada for the first time since May 2005. Instead, they suffered their 10th loss in their last 12 games in Toronto. So the Twins had to hope that the Tigers wound up losing, although Gardenhire didn't seem to be aware at all of what was going on in Kansas City. "I paid no attention to other scores at all, honestly," Gardenhire said. "We were trying to figure out how we could use 45 guys on my bench to try to win the ballgame." While Gardenhire has acknowledged that scoreboard watching is bound to take place for a team that's still in a pennant chase in September, he made it clear on Tuesday that he's more likely to be paying attention when his team might have something to gain. "I have no idea what Detroit is doing, and don't really care," Gardenhire said. "I know we didn't win tonight. We had a lead and couldn't hold it."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.