Twins Daily: Big 7th inning, Drew Butera's walk-off single yield sweep
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Drew Butera's single in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Minnesota Twins a 5-4, come-from-behind win over the San Diego Padres on Sunday, completing a three-game sweep, extending their winning streak to seven and lifting them out of last place for the first time in six weeks.
As they have throughout the Twins' resurgence, the forgotten players on the roster came up big when it mattered.
Rene Tosoni and Matt Tolbert had RBI doubles in a three-run seventh inning. Alex Burnett, who had struggled in his last relief appearance, put down the Padres (30-43) in order in the top of the ninth.
And then it was Butera, whose hard grounder ricocheted off third baseman Chase Headley's glove and into the outfield, scoring Delmon Young from second base and giving the Twins (31-39) their 14th win in 16 games.
"That's how you do these things," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Everybody's got to play a part, everybody has a role and some people have to step up. Delmon leads off the last inning, gets on (first) base and (Luke Hughes) bunts him over and you get Drew to knock him in, a big base hit for us."
The Padres walked Tsuyoshi Nishioka to get to Butera, who had entered the game as a defensive substitution after Tosoni pinch-hit for Rene Rivera in the seventh. Reliever Chad Qualls left a 2-2 slider over the plate, Butera pulled it and Headley couldn't make a diving stop, forcing left fielder Chris Denorfia to charge and hurl a throw home that didn't have a chance.
"That's that never-die attitude, and that's the way we feel right now," said Butera, who is hitting .375 (9-for-24) in June. "We feel any situation in the game we can come back from, and that's a credit to our guys staying positive and working hard."
For the first time since May 8, the Twins are within eight games of the .500 mark and ended a day out of last place in the American League Central Division, thanks to Kansas City's loss 5-4 loss at St. Louis.
Alexi Casilla put the Twins ahead in the first inning with a solo homer to right field. Francisco Liriano retired the first 10 batters he faced in order, then allowed seven hits -- all singles -- in the fourth and fifth innings as the Padres took a 3-1 lead.
The Twins surged ahead in a wild bottom of the seventh, with Luke Hughes reaching on a throwing error by third baseman Chase Headley and Tosoni and Tolbert each delivering a two-out RBI double to make it 4-3.
"I was just looking to get a hit," Tolbert said. "I didn't care where it was. But Tosoni got me all fired up, seeing his at-bat. And once I saw him hit that double, getting into scoring position -- and he tied it up -- I was like, 'All right, now I've got to do my part and take the lead here.'"
But the Padres answered against reliever Glen Perkins in the top of the eighth with four singles -- the last on a grounder by Will Venable that Hughes, playing first base, dived to stop in front of Casilla and then found no one covering the bag.
"We saw where fundamentals come into play," Gardenhire said. "A ball hit over there -- I think it was right to Lexi -- and I think Hughsie didn't know that Lexi was playing hard-pull. He's got to know that in the first place, but he went for the ball. But still, our pitcher's got to cover first, too.
"So a couple screwed-up plays there, but then a big hit by Drew at the end, and I think Mr. Tosoni had a huge hit earlier. Some fun things happened and a good way to win a ballgame and go into an off-day."
Padres catcher Rob Johnson cost his team twice at pivotal moments.
In the bottom of the seventh, Johnson dropped what would have been a third-strike foul tip, giving Tosoni two more pitches to rip his game-tying double down the right field line.
"I was pretty happy that he dropped it," said Tosoni, who struck out looking in his only previous pinch-hitting appearance on May 8 at Boston.
"I asked the umpire if it was in the zone, and he said it was, so I'm glad I got a piece of that ball and the catcher dropped it."
Then, in the top of the eighth, Johnson came to bat after Venerable's game-tying RBI single with a chance to help San Diego regain the lead. But Perkins struck him out swinging on four pitches, keeping the game tied at 4.
8-1: Twins' record on their rain-shortened, nine-game homestand.
4: Consecutive games they have won by one run.
8: Strikeouts recorded by Liriano, who threw 100 pitches (59 strikes), walked two and allowed three earned runs on eight hits. "He gave us a good, hard seven innings, and it wasn't an easy seven innings for him," Gardenhire said. "But this ballclub definitely needed it, and you know what? That's what he's been doing for us. He's as good as they get for us."
4: Consecutive starts in which Liriano had allowed two runs or fewer before Sunday. "Just rushing, trying to overthrow," Liriano said. "I wasn't locating my fastball (Sunday) the way I wanted to."
2: Home runs at Target Field for Casilla, whose first-inning blast -- his first since last July 30 -- was estimated at 378 feet.
1: Home runs at Target Field for Twins C Joe Mauer, who had two groundouts and two flyouts on Sunday to fall to 1-for-11 since his return from the disabled list.
68.3: Mauer's groundball percentage (28 in 41 batted balls) this season -- well above his career groundball rate of 49.7 percent.
65.9: Yankees SS Derek Jeter's groundball percentage this season, the highest in baseball among qualifying batters entering Sunday.
1: Somersault performed by Casilla, who had an apparent miscommunication with SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka on a Padres steal and ended up tumbling over the baserunner.
3: Consecutive saves entering Sunday for closer Matt Capps, who warmed up in the ninth inning and was "ready to go" again if the Twins needed him, Gardenhire said.
• RHP Joe Nathan (elbow tenderness) threw a scoreless inning for Rochester on Saturday night and will throw in back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday. If all goes well, he likely would rejoin the Twins in Milwaukee on Friday.
• 1B Justin Morneau (sore left wrist) will have his cast removed on Friday or Saturday, and after that, "he's going to need a few days to get his range of motion back and his strength back before we let him start swinging," head athletic trainer Rick McWane said. "If everything goes well, you give him a couple days -- two, three days, four days -- to get his strength and range of motion back, then he can start swinging again. If everything goes well, a week before he gets out of his cast he should be ready to swing. That doesn't mean he'll be back playing in games, but just ready to swing."
• DH Jim Thome (back, quad) was slowed over the weekend with an illness, but he took batting practice in Fort Myers, Fla., on Sunday and will take at-bats in simulated games on Monday and Wednesday.
• RHP Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) will face Thome in a simulated game on Wednesday as he continues his rehab in Fort Myers as well.
"They're going to amputate it."
-- Valencia, when asked for an injury update before Sunday's game
The Twins are off on Monday, then open a six-game road trip with the first of three in San Francisco on Tuesday.
• Tuesday: at San Francisco, 9:15 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (4-5, 4.20) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (3-8, 3.21).
• Wednesday: at San Franscisco, 9:15 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (6-4, 3.16) vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (4-1, 1.92).
• Thursday: at San Francisco, 2:45 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (4-6, 4.82) vs. RHP Tim Lincecum (5-6, 3.39).
Phil Mackey and Albert Maruggi contributed.