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Updated: May 29th, 2011 4:20pm
Twins Daily: Ninth-inning rally falls short in sloppy loss to Angels

Twins Daily: Ninth-inning rally falls short in sloppy loss to Angels

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- A ninth-inning rally wasn't enough for the Minnesota Twins to overcome the mistakes of the first eight on Sunday afternoon. Michael Cuddyer lined out to center field with two outs and runners at the corners, allowing the Los Angeles Angels to survive a hairy final frame and take the series with a 6-5 win.

The skinny

Sloppy play and inefficient offense proved costly for the Twins (17-34), who committed two errors, could have been charged with at least two more and left nine runners on base.

But they still had a chance in the bottom of the ninth inning, when Angels closer Jordan Walden issued a leadoff walk to pinch hitter Matt Tolbert, Denard Span ripped an RBI single with one out and Alexi Casilla walked to put the tying run on base.

After Jason Kubel struck out swinging on five pitches, Justin Morneau rolled a single up the middle to score Span and bring Cuddyer to the plate with the tying run 90 feet away.

He got a good swing on a 2-1 fastball -- Walden's 37th pitch of the inning -- but hit it almost directly at center fielder Peter Bourjos, who glided to his right to make the catch and seal the Angels' second win in three games at Target Field.

"All we can do is continue to work," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's frustrating, but ... I was proud of the guys. They stayed in the game. They kept battling. They kept fighting. Guys had some quality at-bats there at the end, and if we continue to do that, we'll win our share of ballgames."

Nearly two months into the season, the Twins haven't won a three-game series -- and now they're headed back onto the road for 10 games against division foes Detroit, Kansas City and Cleveland.

They got eight innings of work from right-hander Carl Pavano on Sunday but botched a series of plays in the field. They had at least one runner on base in every inning except the fourth, totaling 13 hits, but stranded five in scoring position.

It all provided an opening for the Angels (28-27), who managed only one hit in Saturday's 1-0 loss to the Twins but pounded out 11 in the series finale.

Turning points

The Twins had a chance to turn the tide in the sixth and seventh innings but failed to take advantage.

With two outs in the sixth and the Angels leading 4-2, Delmon Young singled and Danny Valencia followed by ripping a double to the left-field wall.

Young appeared to have a decent shot to beat a relay throw by Angels shortstop Erick Aybar. But third-base coach Steve Liddle put up the stop sign, and Drew Butera popped out to right field on Haren's next pitch.

The decision to hold Young was more surprising because the Twins had no decent pinch-hitting option for Butera, who was hitting .120 before his second-inning double. With Jim Thome (left shoulder/neck) unavailable, the only players on the bench were Tolbert, Jason Repko and Rene Rivera.

The Twins did score a run in the seventh, when Trevor Plouffe led off with a walk and came home on Alexi Casilla's groundout. But after Jason Kubel's infield single put the potential go-ahead run on base, Justin Morneau hit into a 6-3 double play that kept the Angels ahead by one.

Bobby Abreu's RBI double made it 5-3 in the top of the eighth, and Mark Trumbo launched a home run an estimated 436 feet into the upper deck in left field off of Jim Hoey in the ninth -- what turned out to be the deciding tally.

Numbers game

0-9: Twins' record in three-game series this season.

4: Defensive miscues in the third inning by the Twins, who turned a 1-0 lead into a 3-1 deficit. Plouffe airmailed Morneau after stopping Mark Trumbo's leadoff grounder. Morneau couldn't hold onto a throw from Valencia, who was playing too deep when Jeff Mathis bunted. Erick Aybar's triple got underneath Morneau's glove. And Plouffe overthrew Morneau again with a needless, off-balance heave that allowed Aybar to score the Angels' third run of the inning.

3: Errors that could have been charged on Plouffe, who also couldn't handle Jeff Mathis' hot grounder in the fifth. That play and the first of his two overthrows in the third were ruled hits. "He kind of looked like he -- I don't know, didn't let 'em fly," Gardenhire said. "He just kind of lobbed them over there, and that's what we're talking about: being aggressive and then let 'em flow." Asked if the issue could be mental, Plouffe said, "It could be. I've been getting my work in and preparing for the game the same way. It just hasn't really gone my way. I've got to look at some video, see what I'm doing and make an adjustment. That's all I can do. I can't go back in time and fix anything right now. Just move forward."

114, 81: Pitches and strikes thrown by Pavano, who allowed five runs (four earned) on 10 hits in eight innings, striking out three and walking none. "I think I'm throwing a little bit different than I had last year, because I'm just not that comfortable right now as far as commanding my stuff," said Pavano, who fell to 2-5 with a 5.19 ERA. "So, as that comes around, I think not giving up four or five runs every start -- you can't expect to win ballgames like that."

39,867: Announced attendance for Sunday's game, the Twins' 14th sellout this season.

1: Out recorded by LHP Chuck James in his first big-league appearance since Aug. 6, 2008. Summoned with two outs and a runner on first in the top of the ninth, James -- who had surgery in 2008 for a slightly torn labrum and remove his bursa sac -- committed a balk, then got Aybar to foul out and end the inning. "I wouldn't come back if it was to play minor-league ball, now that I have a family and all that," James said. "I just kind of took it day to day."

Health watch

• LHP Francisco Liriano (left shoulder soreness) told trainers he felt better Sunday than he did Friday. An MRI showed inflammation, but nothing serious. If Liriano is unable to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday, the team will likely place him on the disabled list.

• LHP Jose Mijares (left elbow tenderness) pitched two innings in an extended spring game on Saturday, and he will be activated from the disabled list prior to Monday's game in Detroit.

• C Joe Mauer (leg weakness, general soreness) is scheduled to take four more at-bats in an extended spring game on Monday. He has begun catching bullpens and continues to do defensive drills, but he is not yet scheduled to catch in a game. Gardenhire said "it would probably be the right thing for him to maybe get to Triple-A and face competition and some more at-bats" at some point as well.

• INF Tsuyoshi Nishioka (broken leg) will play five innings at second base in an extended spring game on Monday, as he continues to alternate back and forth between the two middle infield positions. Nishioka was placed on the 60-day disabled list Saturday to make room on the 40-man roster for LHP Chuck James, but when he's eligible to return on June 7 it's likely he'll play shortstop. "Shortstop everything's coming at you, so you see the runner -- has a better feel for it," Gardenhire said. "Second base a lot of times you're facing away from the runner and getting a sense of the runner sliding into you, and getting his lines toward first base has been a little difficult for him."

• RHP Joe Nathan (right elbow tenderness) has inflammation in his forearm, which is not necessarily uncommon for pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery, according to the doctor who performed the procedure, Dr. David Altcheck. "We'll just have to take a few steps back and let it calm down," said head athletic trainer Rick McWane.

• LHP Glen Perkins (oblique) threw from 60 feet Saturday with no pain.

• Thome received a cortisone shot on Saturday night and didn't play in Sunday's game, but he is available to play starting Monday.

Overheard

"Big Fella, if we roll off 10 in a row, we're shaving that mustache off. ... We're only nine away."
-- Valencia to longtime clubhouse attendant Wayne "Big Fella" Haddaway before Sunday's game

On deck

Despite losing eight of their last 12 entering, including a split of a doubleheader with Boston on Sunday, the Detroit Tigers (26-26) remain in second place behind Cleveland in the American League Central standings. They entered Sunday around the middle of the pack in scoring (214 runs, 16th), batting average (.251, 15th), on-base percentage (.321, 12th) and slugging (.392, 14th). On the mound, they were 24th in earned-run average (4.36) and 22nd in strikeouts (342).

"Maybe they'll be a little worn out" after Sunday's doubleheader, Gardenhire said. "That'd be good, but we still have to go out and figure out how we're going to take care of ourselves and not worry about the other guys. We have to take care of our own team and get ourselves straight, and that's what we're trying to do."

Brad Penny (4-4, 4.45) will start Monday's matinee opener (12:05 p.m., 1500 ESPN Twin Cities) against the Twins, who have scored 11 runs (10 earned) off the veteran right-hander in 17 1/3 innings over three career starts. Penny, 32, is in his 11th big-league season and with his fourth team in as many years, having signed one-year pacts with San Francisco, St. Louis and then Detroit, which gave him a $3 million contract in January.

He'll face Twins right-hander Nick Blackburn (4-4, 3.20), who is coming off of a complete-game shutout on Tuesday against Seattle. After going 1-4 with a 5.14 ERA in April, Blackburn is 3-0 in May with a 1.72 ERA, 21 strikeouts and 11 walks -- continuing his history of heating up in the season's second month. Since breaking into the big leagues in 2007, Blackburn is 6-7 with a 4.67 ERA in March and April and 13-3 with a 2.66 ERA in May. In June, he's 4-7 with a 5.62 ERA.

Coming up

• Tuesday: vs. Detroit, 6:05 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (2-5, 4.83) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (6-2, 3.86).
• 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. TBD.

Phil Mackey contributed.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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