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Updated: May 26th, 2010 11:15pm
Pelissero: Same old Twins' struggles keep killing them against Yankees

Pelissero: Same old Twins' struggles keep killing them against Yankees

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Even before Jon Rauch sparred with reporters for one absurdly tense minute, the vibe in the Minnesota Twins' clubhouse seemed a little off on Wednesday.

"What do you think?" Rauch snapped when asked if the 1-1 changeup Nick Swisher smashed for a 381-foot, go-ahead, series-winning homer needed to be down or just catch less plate.

"I mean, you saw the same game I did, didn't you?"

Yep, we saw it. A Target Field-record crowd of 39,353 saw it -- the 3-2 loss and the 1-0 defeat earlier in the day, completing Tuesday's suspended game.

Yet really, none of us needed to see any of it, because we've all seen it before.

So much for the cosmic impact of Jason Kubel's grand slam at Yankee Stadium on May 16.

This is the same old, same old -- the big bad Bronx Bombers beating down the Twins, who seem to reach for their Depends every time they get a chance to steal a game from a team they should approach as an equal.

The Yankees arrived as losers of seven in 12 games, with the same 26-18 record as their hosts. Now they've already won their first series in this ballpark and can polish off a sweep on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Scott Baker had perhaps his best start all season ended by a thunderstorm. On Wednesday, Francisco Liriano had his bounce-back effort squandered by the Twins' stunningly inept offense, a rare defensive lapse and one horrible changeup that needed to be anywhere but the place Rauch threw it -- belt-high down the heart of the plate.

"Situation like that, you get two quick outs, things seem to be going pretty well and then I got beat on my fourth-best pitch," Rauch said. "It's not something I'm proud of, obviously, but I thought I threw it with conviction and it was the right pitch to call."

Rauch went on to say he "blew it for us," and good on him for taking the blame. It's better than the bounces-didn't-go-our-way excuse, which can't explain away a 1-14 mark against the Yankees over the past two seasons (or 7-22 since 2007, or 15-45 since '02) even on a day/night it seems all too true.

Sure, there was a line drive caroming off reliever David Robertson's back and into Alex Rodriguez's glove. And rockets by J.J. Hardy -- to the exact spot Derek Jeter's first-game homer off Brian Duensing exited three innings before -- and Joe Mauer that died on the warning track.

There was first-base umpire Scott Barry's questionable safe call on a would-be double play the Twins tried to turn in slow motion, setting up Kevin Russo's RBI double in the fourth inning of the nightcap. And Russo's soft, two-out flare that set the stage for Brett Gardner's go-ahead triple in the sixth.

Even after Delmon Young's RBI double tied the score at 2 in the seventh ... and center fielder Brett Gardner couldn't handle Drew Butera's double to the gap leading off the eighth ... and then Rodriguez biffed Denard Span's sacrifice bunt to put runners at the corners at no outs ... should it really have come as a shock when Andy Pettitte snared Hudson's hot liner and reigning MVP Joe Mauer grounded into an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play to set the stage for Swisher's bomb?

"They're a good team, and that's what happens when good teams play well," Butera said. "It's hard to get a lot of breaks when they don't make mistakes."

This goes beyond bad breaks, bad variance -- whatever you want to call it.

The Twins can't beat the Yankees. A game here and there, sure, but it's gotten to the point there's every reason to expect that, one way or another, they'll fail in the clutch more often than not.

This isn't a reach for the panic switch (nor the adult undergarments). We haven't even hit Memorial Day.

But a 4-8 skid that has the Twins only six games over .500 for the first time since May 1 -- and a 1-4 record against their longtime playoff nemesis -- is reason to wonder whether all the early-season hype raised expectations way too high, way too fast.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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