Twins Daily: Justin Morneau's big night spoiled by poor pitching
A rough outing by Brian Duensing and leaky performances by Jose Mijares and Phil Dumatrait rendered Justin Morneau's two home runs irrelevant as the Minnesota Twins lost 8-7 to the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night.
Not even Morneau's first multi-home run game since May 17, 2010 could jump-start the Twins.
Morneau connected on a solo blast in the third inning to give the Twins a 3-0 lead and a go-ahead, two-run shot in the seventh inning to make it 7-6 -- both off Tigers starter Max Scherzer.
But starting pitcher Duensing was unable to escape a six-run fifth inning, and the bullpen -- not surprisingly -- was unable to keep the Tigers offense in check.
Left-hander Jose Mijares served up the game-tying sacrifice fly to Jhonny Peralta in the seventh inning, and left-hander Phil Dumatrait gave up the go-ahead sacrifice fly to Brennan Boesch in the eighth.
Dumatrait had himself to blame for winding up in a jam. With a runner on first base and nobody out, the lefty fielded a bunt by Austin Jackson and skipped a throw to second base, allowing everybody to reach safely.
"He's gotta get the out at first base," manager Ron Gardenhire told the Star Tribune. "I heard our catcher [Rene Rivera] yelling, 'Two! Two! Two!'
"We always talk about is getting an out. Let's not be Superman out there. I think we tried a little too hard there and we have to get the out at first base."
The loss ensures the Twins will remain winless in 10 three-game series so far this season.
Graced with a 3-0 lead, Duensing allowed back-to-back singles to Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn to start the fifth inning. After Danny Worth struck out swinging, Austin Jackson blooped an RBI single to right field, cutting the lead to 3-1.
A ground rule double by Casper Wells scored Raburn to make it 3-2, and it also put runners on second and third with only one out. The next batter, Boesch, then hit a roller to shortstop Matt Tolbert, who, instead of taking the sure out at first base, made an ill-advised throw toward third base in an effort to cut down Wells.
The throw -- which may have arrived too late anyway -- sailed wide of Danny Valencia and into the Tigers dugout.
The tying run would have scored regardless of where Tolbert threw the ball, but the shortstop's throw allowed Wells to score the go-ahead run. Back-to-back doubles by Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta put the Tigers up 6-3 and chased Duensing from the game.
The Twins eventually battled back to take a 7-6 lead, but it was a prolonged fifth inning that led to Duensing's early departure. And when the Twins bullpen is asked to throw three innings, bad things usually happen.
4: Home runs this season for Morneau, who finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs, three runs scored and a walk. Morneau struck out swinging against Joaquin Benoit in the ninth innning with the tying run on second base.
8: Days between home runs for the Twins until Morneau's solo blast in the third inning. Prior to that, the Twins hadn't homered since May 23.
5.37: Duensing's ERA after allowing six earned runs on nine hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings. Duensing struck out five, but he has now allowed five earned runs or more in three of his last four starts.
4: Outs recorded by the newly-recalled Anthony Slama, who walked one and struck out two in 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
19: Pitchers used by the Twins this season, which is five shy of a club record.
8-19: The Twins' record in May, following a 9-17 record in April.
• OF Jason Kubel (sprained foot) missed Tuesday's game and is temporarily stuck with a walking boot. The Twins are hopeful he won't need to be placed on the 15-day disabled list.
• Morneau told reporters he has been playing with a pinched nerve in his neck, as well as some left shoulder weakness, and the condition is unlikely to improve until the season is over. According to the Star Tribune, Gardenhire asked Morneau if he needed a DL stint, but because rest won't cure the pain, the first baseman has elected to play through it.
• C Joe Mauer (leg weakness, general soreness) took four more at-bats on Monday as he continues to rehab at extended spring training in Florida. Mauer has yet to play catcher in a game, although he has caught bullpen sessions over the last week. The team has not revealed a specific timetable for Mauer's return to the big league squad. And in case there were any questions about the Twins' stance regarding a possible position switch, Gardenhire told reporters, "He's coming back as a catcher. He signed an eight-year deal to catch in the big leagues for the Minnesota Twins, so we're trying to get him back as a catcher." Per MLB.com, Gardenhire also added that Mauer will not tinker with other positions this season. "(Catcher) is where he's going to be until Joe says, 'I can't do it anymore,' or we deem him not physically able to do that. But we believe he is. He just needs to get healthy."
Right-hander Scott Baker (2-3, 3.65) will attempt to help the Twins avoid a sweep when he battles right-hander Rick Porcello (4-3, 3.93) in Wednesday's series finale (6:05 p.m., 1500 ESPN).
Baker is coming off one of his best starts of the season -- seven scoreless innings against the Angels where he allowed only six hits while striking out six and walking nobody. After Baker left, the Twins bullpen blew a 5-0 lead over the game's final two innings.
Porcello will catch a break on Wednesday, as he is unlikely to face Jason Kubel, who owns a .500/.500/.773 batting line in 22 plate appearances against the 22-year-old righty. Porcello was roughed up for six earned runs in three innings in his last start against the Boston Red Sox, but prior to that he allowed two earned runs or fewer in six straight starts.
• 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).
• Saturday: vs. Kansas City, 6:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (4-4, 3.57) vs. RHP Luke Hochevar (3-5, 4.96).