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Updated: May 27th, 2011 10:33pm
Twins Daily: Scott Baker's gem wasted by rotten bullpen performance

Twins Daily: Scott Baker's gem wasted by rotten bullpen performance

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Scott Baker left after throwing seven scoreless innings, but the bullpen was unable to hold a 5-0 lead in the final two frames, as the Minnesota Twins lost 6-5 to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night.

The skinny

No lead is safe when handed to the Twins bullpen.

For seven innings, the Twins played perhaps one of their most complete games of the season. The offense tallied five runs on 10 hits and four walks, and Baker threw seven scoreless innings, allowing six hits and zero walks while striking out six.

Once Baker left, the wheels came flying off, as the combination of Alex Burnett, Dusty Hughes and Jim Hoey gave up six runs in the eighth and ninth innings to blow a 5-0 lead.

Peter Bourjos tripled off Hoey to start the ninth, and Maicer Izturis singled him home for the go-ahead run.

"Baker gave us a opportunity to win a ballgame - a 5-0 lead and we can't hold it," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We made too many mistakes along the way. It should have been an eight or nine run game as far as I'm concerned. People have to be accountable for some of this stuff. It's not good enough."

Turning point

The Angels' eighth-inning rally began with a groundball to firstbaseman Justin Morneau by Peter Bourjos. The pitcher, Burnett, was slow to cover the bag, thus allowing Bourjos to reach safely.

Maicer Izturis then drew a walk, prompting pitching coach Rick Anderson -- not manager Ron Gardenhire -- to pull Burnett for left-hander Hughes.

Hughes immediately gave up a three-run homer to Erick Aybar, shaving the lead to 5-3. The next batter, Bobby Abreu, hit a slow roller up the middle, and Michael Cuddyer -- playing second base to allow Gardenhire to sneak an extra bat into the lineup -- trudged toward the ball but was unable to make a back-handed stab. The play was ruled a hit, but likely could have also been ruled an error.

Hoey then came in for Hughes, but he fared no better, allowing a double to Torii Hunter, a run-scoring infield single to Alberto Callaspo and a sacrifice fly to Russell Branyan, tying the game 5-5.

"Those guys have to get it done," Gardenhire said. "That's who we have. That's who we are. That's who has to pitch. ...

"You shoot yourself in the foot when you don't cover first base and you walk the next guy. Throw it over."

Numbers game

49: Runs allowed in the eighth inning by Twins pitchers this season. By contrast, the Twins allowed 67 eighth-inning runs all of last season.

10.61: Hoey's ERA in 9 1/3 innings this season after allowing two earned runs on four hits in an inning on Friday. "Right now it sucks," Hoey said. "Right now you're thinkng about what you can do better, you're thinking about a different pitch here and there. But as a baseball player you forget by tomorrow."

3: Hits for former Twin Torii Hunter, who finished 3-for-5 with a double and a run.

3: Extra-base hits for Casilla, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a triple and a walk, raising his season batting line to .234/.295/.333. "That's the one reason I put him at shortstop today," Gardenhire said. "He's been swinging good. He's been aggressive. That's what have to have from him. That's what we would love to see from him -- just exactly what's he's done the last few ballgames. Just go out there and swing the bat, run the bases aggressively, look for openings and he's done that ... Something's click in him a bit and we hope he stays with it."

1,000: Career hits for Michael Cuddyer after a ninth-inning single.

Overheard

"Jason Kubel came in and told me he made a mistake and screwed it up. I can handle that. That's standing up and being accountable and we need more of that. ... Danny Valencia diving back into first base on a two out line drive to second base - that's embarrassing. That stuff shouldn't happen. We're in the big leagues. It's embarrassing. Those things right there have to go away. We have to be a better baseball team than that."
-- Gardenhire, referring to Kubel getting doubled off in the fifth inning and Valencia forgetting how many outs there were later.

"It does, man. That's my adopted home. This is home, but that's my adopted home. They brought me in and they fed me, did a lot of great things, and I love the organization. They're A-1. They've got to be the best organization in the game. Fans are A-1. There's 40,000 a game, and it's 70 degrees every day."
-- Hunter, when asked if California now feels like home.

Health watch

• RHP Joe Nathan was unavailable Friday night due to tenderness in his surgically-repaired right elbow. If Nathan is unavailable again on Saturday, Gardenhire said the team will likely make a move.

• DH Jim Thome came down with soreness in his neck and shoulder, and it's possible he could need a cortisone shot, which would sideline him temporarily. Thome was lifted for Trevor Plouffe late in Friday's game.

• C Joe Mauer (weakness/soreness) served as DH for four plate appearances in an extended spring training game on Friday. He went 0-for-2 with two walks, facing Kevin Millwood in all four trips. Team trainer Rick Pruemer said Mauer had no problems and his knees are feeling fine. Progress aside, the Twins are still being cautious of bringing back Mauer too quickly.

• 2B/SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fractured fibula) is set to play in a spring training game on Saturday. The Twins hope for him to get in a couple of at-bats and about five innings in the field. There is not a projected return date for Nishioka, but the team has been happy with his steady progress. "He's ready to play," Gardenhire said. "He's fired up. He's doing a lot of drills -- a lot of drills at shortstop. Everybody assures me that everything looks good. He's throwing the ball well and moving well on his feet.

• LHP Jose Mijares (left elbow tenderness) was scheduled to pitch one inning for the Ft. Myers Miracle Friday night, but the game was postponed due to rain. Mijares will likely make an appearance in Saturday's day/night doubleheader, which could push back his projected appearance in Sunday's game. The Twins are remain optimistic Mijares can come off the DL as early as Monday. "As long as everything goes well, I think there is a chance," Pruemer said. "It's not guaranteed. But up until now he's felt very well."

• LHP Glen Perkins (strained right oblique) has seen the majority of the pain in his oblique subside. Pruemer is hoping to have Perkins throw in the bullpen some time this weekend.

• RHP Matt Capps (forearm soreness) hasn't pitched in a game since Monday, but he has received treatment on his arm and thrown in the bullpen the last couple of days. He was available for Friday's game.

• RHP Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) traveled to Ft. Myers and will continue his rehab in the next few days.

On deck

Saturday's pitching match-up (6:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) was originally supposed to feature two of the American League's top three strikeout pitchers (per nine innings) from 2010 -- left-hander Francisco Liriano (3-5, 5.73) and right-hander Jered Weaver (6-4, 2.35).

But according to a source, Liriano will miss Saturday's start with shoulder soreness, and Anthony Swarzak will fill-in instead.

Weaver has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season, allowing three earned runs or fewer in nine of his 11 starts. In 76 2/3 innings, Weaver has walked only 18 while striking out 70 -- a number that is aided by a 15-strikeout performance against Toronto on April 10 and a 10-strikeout performance on April 25 against Oakland.

Coming up

• Sunday: vs. Angels, 1:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (2-4, 5.28) vs. RHP Dan Haren (4-3, 2.24).
• Monday: at Detroit, 12:05 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (4-4, 3.20) vs. RHP Brad Penny (4-4, 4.45).
• Tuesday: at Detroit, 6:05 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (2-5, 4.83) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (6-2, 3.86).

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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