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Updated: July 19th, 2012 3:27pm
De Vries solid, but Twins bullpen squanders lead late in loss to O's

De Vries solid, but Twins bullpen squanders lead late in loss to O's

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins bullpen allowed three late runs in a 4-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday. With the loss, the Twins settled for a series split after winning the first two games on Monday and Tuesday.

The skinny

A two-out bloop single by Mark Reynolds off Anthony Swarzak in the top of the eighth inning fell just in front of center fielder Denard Span, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs to score for the Orioles.

The blown lead spoiled a solid start for Cole De Vries, who retired the final nine batters he faced. Coming off his worst major league start last weekend, the only damage Cole De Vries allowed Thursday was a solo home run to Chris Davis, who blasted a hanging slider onto the plaza in the top of the second inning.

De Vries went six innings and allowed one run on five hits and a walk while striking out five. Nine of the 11 batted-ball outs were fly outs, which isn't a great sign long-term, but it worked out fine Thursday.

The Twins took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single by Josh Willingham and an RBI double by Trevor Plouffe. Alexi Casilla drove in a run in the fourth with a sac fly.

Trailing by a run, the Twins threatened in the bottom of the eighth inning when Josh Willingham walked and Justin Morneau singled to open the frame. But Trevor Plouffe popped out, Darin Mastroianni grounded into a fielder's choice and Brian Dozier flew out to end the potential rally.

The Orioles appeared ready to take a lead in the top of the third inning when Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy opened the frame with back-to-back singles. But De Vries buzzed through the heart of Baltimore's order, getting Jim Thome and Adam Jones on fly outs and Matt Wieters on a groundout back to the mound.

"I knew the situation at hand," De Vries said. "It was going to be very difficult, but it was kind of more getting myself under control and kind of turning up the notch to 11 on concentrating and executing pitches, because I knew that was probably going to be a critical point in the game. If I go out there and give up two or three more hits, and they score however many more runs, then it's going to be very difficult for us to come back. I was really happy that I was able to concentrate, execute a few pitches and get us out of there. ...

"I've gotten myself into a few of those sticky situations like that."

Duensing came on in relief of De Vries in the seventh inning and immediately put himself in a jam by walking Chris Davis and allowing a single to Reynolds.

After Ryan Flaherty bunted the runners into scoring position, Nick Markakis hit a groundball to third baseman Plouffe, who -- instead of throwing to first base for a sure out -- threw home in an effort to cut down the lead runner, Davis.

Plouffe's throw sailed slightly high, and a leaping Joe Mauer was unable to corral it. Davis scored to cut the Twins lead to 3-2.

Duensing was able to recover two batters later by inducing an inning-ending double play off the bat of Jim Thome.

Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen held the Twins to three runs on six hits and a walk while striking out five in seven innings.

Turning point

Swarzak shouldn't shoulder all of the blame for the blown eighth-inning lead. He did his job by inducing a jam-shot blooper that happened to fall in.

Right-hander Alex Burnett opened the top of the eighth inning by walking two batters with one out, which led to manager Ron Gardenhire summoning left-hander Tyler Robertson.

"We walked ourselves into a mess there at the end, not throwing the ball over," Gardenhire said. "Cole was good. He kept them off-balance and battled through six hard innings. ... We had some runs on them, and one missed play and the walks -- walks get you every time. ...

"A bloop to center field ends up costing us a couple of runs, and that's by walking people and putting people on the bases. That's how you lose a ballgame at the end, by walks and missing plays, and we did that the last couple innings. That's too bad."

A groundout by Chris Davis moved runners into scoring position with two outs, setting the table for Reynolds' single off Swarzak.

Swarzak struck out Markakis, Hardy and Thome in the ninth.

"There's no excuse for what happened today," Burnett said. "I walked those two guys. I lost my command there. But there's no excuse for that."

Numbers game

1: Hit for Thome, in five at-bats, in what might have been his last game at Target Field.

20: Stolen bases for Revere

17: Consecutive games with a hit for Plouffe

Health report

RHP Carl Pavano plans to throw off a mound on Sunday for the first time since June 1.

On deck

Friday: @ Royals, 7:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (4-5, 8.10) vs. RHP Luis Mendoza (3-6, 4.32)
Saturday: @ Royals, 6:10 p.m. LHP Scott Diamond (8-3, 2.96) vs. TBD

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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