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Updated: August 21st, 2011 4:19pm
Twins Daily: Missed opportunities haunt in another loss to Yankees

Twins Daily: Missed opportunities haunt in another loss to Yankees

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- A failed scoring chance in the fifth inning let the air out of the balloon for the Minnesota Twins, who lost their 22nd game in 26 tries to the New York Yankees, 3-0 at Target Field on Sunday.

The skinny

Despite the Yankees putting nine runners on base through the first six innings, a cavalcade of Twins relievers managed to keep the score just 1-0 until lefty Jose Mijares entered to pitch the seventh.

That's when the Bronx Bombers finally broke through.

After Mijares retired the first two batters, Curtis Granderson launched a fly ball off the top of the fence in right-center. The ball ricocheted back over the heads of outfielders Ben Revere and Jason Kubel and rolled halfway toward the infield. By the time Kubel could track it down, Granderson slid head-first into home for an inside-the-park home run.

"I think Ben might have thought the ball was out of the ballpark and kind of relaxed a little bit, and then the ball hit and bounced," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You've got two outfielders. Normally one goes to the ball towards the wall and the other one backs up and plays it off the wall, and they both went towards the wall, and it ricochets and bounced completely off. You can't relax at all. It looks like we did a little bit, thinking the ball was out."

The next batter, Mark Teixeira, hit a screaming liner into the second row in left field to put the Yankees up 3-0.

The Twins squandered two chances to post crooked numbers in the fifth and eighth innings and wound up posting a goose egg.

Twins starter Nick Blackburn walked the bases loaded in the second inning before leaving with soreness in his right forearm.

Yankees starter Ivan Nova threw seven scoreless innings, striking out five and walking only one.

Turning point

Still battling in a scoreless game, the Twins had a golden opportunity to draw first blood in the bottom of the fifth inning.

After Jim Thome singled to start the frame, Danny Valencia hit a harmless pop fly toward right-center. Center fielder Granderson and right fielder Nick Swisher converged, nearly collided, then both jumped out of the way as the ball fell to the grass, allowing Thome to reach third and Valencia to reach second on a generously-scored double.

Nova battled right back to strike out Rene Tosoni and Matt Tolbert out on low breaking balls. Drew Butera then dribbled a weak grounder to first baseman Teixeira for the third out.

"The middle guys are back, and you've got to put the ball in play, one of the first two guys for sure need to put the ball in play towards the middle of the field and get a run in," Gardenhire said. "That's easier said than done. Pitchers make pitches. But (Nova) was bouncing the ball not close, and we were chasing, and we have to be better than that."

Regarding Tosoni's strikeout, Gardenhire added, He probably put a little bit too much pressure on himself in that at-bat. ... You're going to get some of that with young kids. ...

"Matty Tolbert, I was surprised, because noramlly he's pretty good at putting the ball in play and contact, and he kind of was chasing pretty bad out there, pretty much all day."

The Twins also loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, trailing 3-0, but failed to score.

Numbers game

49: pitches thrown by Blackburn, of which only 23 were strikes.

2 2/3: Scoreless innings thrown by Anthony Swarzak in relief of Blackburn. Swarzak threw 32 pitches just two days after throwing 54 in relief of Kevin Slowey. "That was the first time I've been put in that situation," Swarzak said about warming up in a hurry. "I just tried to get loose as quick as possible, make sure I was ready, and try not to show all my out pitches out there while everybody's watching."

87: Consecutive games without an error for Teixeira before he bobbled a groundball in the third inning.

1: Errors for Mauer at first base after his ninth-inning bobble. Mauer also made a difficult diving stop to his right earlier in the game.

2: Inside-the-park home runs allowed by the Twins this season.

Overheard

"Mentally, what went through my head, was, 'oh crap, I'm 3-0.' I just wanted to throw strike one, and just challenge him with my best stuff from there on out. He knew I was throwing a fastball, and I think everybody knew, and he swung and missed."
-- Swarzak, talking about going 3-0 to Eduardo Nunez with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the second inning.

Health report

• 1B Justin Morneau sat out Sunday with a sore right foot. Morneau's foot was the victim of a couple foul tips in Saturday's game.

• OF Michael Cuddyer (neck) took batting practice on the field Sunday and could be ready to play again Monday.

• SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka (back spasms) came into the clubhouse Sunday pretty sore, according to Gardenhire, but he wound up pinch running for Thome in the eighth inning.

On deck

The Twins welcome J.J. Hardy back to Target Field Monday (7:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) when they begin a four-game series with the Baltimore Orioles. Right-hander Carl Pavano (6-9, 4.52) is scheduled to face left-hander Zach Britton (6-9, 4.66).

With 23 home runs, 59 RBIs and a .269/.310/.508 batting line, Hardy has been one of the best-hitting middle infielders in baseball this season. In an injury-plagued season with the Twins last year, Hardy hit .268/.320/.394 with six home runs and 38 RBIs.

Pavano has pitched exceptionally well in August, allowing only five earned runs on 28 hits in 22 1/3 innings (2.01 ERA), striking out 13 and walking only three, and that includes some extremely shaky defense behind him.

Coming up

• Tuesday: vs. Orioles, 7:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (8-12, 4.75) vs. RHP Alfredo Simon (3-6 4.68)
• Wednesday: vs. Orioles, 7:10 p.m. RHP Kevin Slowey (0-1, 6.20) vs. RHP Jo-Jo Reyes (6-10, 5.44)
• Thursday: vs. Orioles, 12:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (9-9, 4.85) vs. RHP Tommy Hunter (2-2, 4.95)

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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