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Updated: May 30th, 2011 3:38pm
Twins Daily: Controversial call spoils a clutch bullpen performance

Twins Daily: Controversial call spoils a clutch bullpen performance

by Phil Mackey
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Despite a rare late-inning, clutch performance by the bullpen, the Minnesota Twins lost Monday's Memorial Day matinee 6-5 to the Detroit Tigers after a controversial RBI double by Alex Avila in the bottom of the eighth inning.

The skinny

The Twins' much-maligned relievers almost came up with the stop they so badly needed. Instead, the result was another new way to lose.

After Nick Blackburn put runners on first and third with nobody out to start the seventh inning, right-hander Jim Hoey was summoned to pitch out of the jam and preserve a 5-all tie. He immediately walked Brandon Inge to load the bases with nobody out, then fell behind Austin Jackson 3-1.

But Hoey froze Jackson with two consecutive mid-90s fastballs for the first out. Left-hander Phil Dumatrait them came in and struck out Casper Wells before inducing an inning-ending groundout off the bat of Brennan Boesch.

The Twins (17-35) couldn't capitalize, thanks in part to the disputed call, and fell a season-high 18 games below the .500 mark.

Turning point

With the game still tied at 5 in the bottom of the eighth, right-hander Alex Burnett induced a weak groundout by Miguel Cabrera and fanned Victor Martinez for the first two outs of the inning. The third batter, Jhonny Peralta, reached on an infield single up the middle to bring Avila to the plate.

Avila slapped a ball down the left-field line, and as the ball rolled toward the corner, not only did it ricochet off the hand of a fan reaching over the wall, but it also bounced off the chest of another man before eventually falling back into the field of play. Left fielder Delmon Young immediately threw his hands up to signal fan interference.

Third-base umpire Gary Darling signaled fan interference, and after a very brief discussion, Peralta was awarded home plate. Darling later told a pool reporter the interference came from a fan in an orange shirt, who appeared to be simply standing there when the ball bounced up and hit him.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was ejected after a protracted argument about the call, told reporters there was "no way" Peralta should have been awarded home plate because he was just rounding second base when the ball struck the fan.

"I don't care who it hit. The ball went in the stands," Gardenhire said, per The Associated Press. "When it goes in the stands you know it's a ground-rule double."

Numbers game

3.57: Blackburn's ERA after allowing five earned runs on seven hits and a walk in six innings. Blackburn struck out three and allowed two home runs.

4: Ejections this season for Gardenhire.

10: Pitches seen by Young in four plate appearances on Monday. Young -- hitting .210/.244/.261 -- has seen an average of 3.51 pitches per plate appearance this year, which is the fewest of anyone on the team. Young, by the way, went 0-for-4.

1: Starting pitchers in the major leagues who had allowed more contact than Tigers starting pitcher Brad Penny prior to Tuesday's game. Only Ivan Nova (90.5% contact rate on batted balls) has been more hittable than Penny (89.3%). Penny gave up five earned runs on 10 hits in six innings.

Health report

• OF Jason Kubel left the game in the seventh inning with a left foot sprain. According to Fox Sports North, X-rays were negative. Kubel told the Star Tribune he'll have the foot placed in a walking boot, but he hopes to miss only a couple of days.

• LHP Francisco Liriano (left shoulder inflammation) was placed on the 15-day disabled list after Monday's game. Anthony Swarzak will take the ball Thursday against the Kansas City Royals in Liriano's place. 

• DH Jim Thome (left shoulder/neck) returned to action Monday to go 2-for-3 with a walk and a double.

• C Joe Mauer (leg weakness, general soreness) and INF Tsuyoshi Nishioka (broken leg) were both scheduled to play in extended spring games Monday. Nishioka is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on June 7. Mauer has been catching bullpens, but has not yet sat behind the plate in a game.

On deck

Tuesday's pitching match-up (6:05 p.m., 1500 ESPN) features left-hander Brian Duensing (2-5, 4.83) and right-hander Max Scherzer (6-2, 3.86).

Duensing suffered through a rough stretch in May until settling down to allow only three earned runs in seven innings against the Mariners in his last start. Overall, Duensing's regression from last year to this year isn't a huge surprise. Duesning's .272 batting average on balls in play last season was one of the lowest marks in the American League, and it has risen back to .308 this year -- a more realistic mark long-term. Still, the Twins will gladly take six or seven solid innings, which Duensing has provided in six of his nine starts this season.

Scherzer was pelted in his last outing -- a 14-1 loss to the Red Sox on May 26 where he allowed seven earned runs in just two innings. Aside from that clunker, Scherzer has been solid almost all year, striking out at least seven batters in six of his 11 starts while allowing two earned runs or fewer seven times.

Coming up

• Wednesday: vs. Detroit, 6:05 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (2-3, 3.65) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (4-3, 3.93).
• Thursday: vs. Kansas City, 7:10 p.m. TBD vs. RHP Sean O'Sullivan (2-4, 6.75).
• Friday: vs. Kansas City, 7:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (2-5, 5.19) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (0-0, 4.11).

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