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Updated: April 14th, 2011 9:02pm
Twins Daily: Joe Nathan and Matt Capps both blow saves in loss to Rays

Twins Daily: Joe Nathan and Matt Capps both blow saves in loss to Rays

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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Joe Nathan blew a save in the ninth inning, and Matt Capps blew one in the 10th, as Johnny Damon's two-run walk-off homer gave the Tampa Bay Rays a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.

The skinny

Carl Pavano's eight shutout innings were effectively wasted, courtesy of two late-inning rallies by the Rays -- or two blown saves by the Twins' closers.

Nursing a 2-0 lead, Joe Nathan came on to pitch the bottom of the ninth, looking to collect his fourth save of the season. He retired B.J. Upton to start the inning, but Felipe Lopez reached on a bloop double to right field, igniting a rally. After Ben Zobrist walked, Matt Joyce laced a two-RBI double to the gap in right-center, tying the game 2-2.

After Danny Valencia's RBI single put the Twins up 3-2, Matt Capps came out to pitch the bottom of the 10th.

He fared no better.

Capps gave up a one-out single to Sam Fuld and a two-run, game-winning homer to right field off the bat of Damon.

Turning point

Late-inning pitching failures will likely steal headlines after this one, but the Twins' inability to cash in offensively is what kept the Rays lingering.

A sacrifice fly by Delmon Young in the sixth inning scored Justin Morneau from third, putting the Twins up 1-0. Three batters later, Drew Butera delivered a bases-loaded single to score Jim Thome from third, extending the lead to 2-0.

With the bases still loaded and only one out, Alexi Casilla lined weakly to first, and Denard Span popped out to third, ending the threat.

The Twins have now played 12 games this season, and not once have they scored more than five runs.

Numbers game

2: The number of times Pavano allowed zero earned runs in 2010 -- both complete-game shutouts. Pavano went eight innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out seven.

2: Tenth-inning, go-ahead singles for Valencia this week.

2,222: Career hits for Thome after a 2-for-5 performance.

0: The number of catchers with more plate appearances than Joe Mauer since 2008. Mauer has 1,861. The next closest catcher, Kurt Suzuki, has 1,790.

Health watch

• In a move that comes somewhat out of the blue, the Twins placed Mauer on the 15-day DL with "bilateral leg weakness." Butera started in his place Thursday, going 1-for-4 with an RBI single.

• 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fractured fibula) and RHP Kevin Slowey (shoulder strain) remain on the 15-day disabled list. Neither player traveled with the team to Tampa.

On deck

The series continues on Friday (6:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) as right-hander Nick Blackburn (1-1, 0.77 ERA) faces right-hander Jeff Niemann (0-2, 8.31).

Blackburn is off to a solid start this season, allowing only one earned run in 11 2/3 innings while inducing a large amount of groundballs (55%). The current Rays roster, however, has been very successful against Blackburn in a small sample size -- .347/.364/.640 with six home runs in 77 plate appearances.

Niemann, on the other hand, is not off to the best start. The right-hander allowed five earned runs in six innings to the Angels in his first start, and followed up by giving up five runs (three earned) in only 2 2/3 innings against the White Sox on Sunday.

Coming up

• Saturday: at Tampa Bay, 3:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (0-2, 6.55) vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson (1-1, 4.09).
• Sunday: at Tampa Bay, 12:40 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (0-0, 4.15) vs. LHP David Price (1-2, 3.92).
• Monday: at Baltimore, 6:05 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (0-3, 9.42 ERA) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (0-1, 7.30).

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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