Twins' attempt at improbable comeback falls short in loss to Phillies
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins' quest to dig out of a large deficit came up just short in a 9-8 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night.
For a while it appeared as if the Twins were primed to pull off an improbable comeback.
Once trailing 6-0 and again 9-3, the Twins had the tying run on second base with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh inning. But the late-inning rally came up just short.
Beating Cole Hamels was going to be a long shot under any circumstances, but digging a six-run hole and losing a starting pitcher after only 15 pitches made the task even more difficult.
P.J. Walters allowed three straight singles to start the game, loading the bases for Jim Thome, who ripped a two-RBI single to right field. As it turned out, that was the final pitch Walters would throw. The right-hander -- whose fastball was clocked mostly in the mid-80's -- left the game due to shoulder soreness without recording an out.
Right-hander Jeff Manship entered the game and promptly gave up an RBI single to Carlos Ruiz and a three-run homer to John Mayberry, Jr.
The Phillies scored another run in the third inning on an RBI double by Mayberry, Jr. and two in the top of the fourth inning when Thome crushed a two-run bomb over the batter's eye in center field off Anthony Swarzak -- a blast estimated at 466 feet.
Thome crossed home plate to a standing ovation from the Target Field crowd.
As it turned out, the Twins did do some damage of Hamels and almost pulled off the comeback.
A home run by the red-hot Trevor Plouffe put the Twins on the board in the second inning, and two RBI groundouts in the third inning temporarily cut the Phillies' lead to 7-3.
The Twins entered the sixth inning trailing 9-3, and a solo blast to center field by Josh Willingham cut the deficit to five.
Charlie Manuel summoned tough lefty Antonio Bastardo, but he was greeted with RBI singles by Ben Revere and Joe Mauer, cutting the lead to 9-7. A wild pitch allowed Revere and Mauer to move into scoring position, putting the tying run on second base with nobody out.
Bastardo fanned Willingham for the first out, then got Justin Morneau to roll over on a grounder to second, which traded a run for an out. Ryan Doumit struck out to end the inning with the Twins still trailing by a run.
Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon completed a four-out save to lock things down.
"They never gave up, so I was really proud of the way they went after the game there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You can always lay down or you can come out fighting, and they came out fighting. That's the way it's supposed to be."
Hamels was charged with seven runs (six earned) on eight hits and two walks while striking out six in six-plus innings -- his worst start of the season.
The six-run first inning put the Twins in catch-up mode before Hamels even took the mound.
Considering Hamels entered the game with a 2.93 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 83 innings, there was little hope for the Twins -- with a lefty-heavy lineup -- to do significant damage, but they managed to continue swinging hot bats.
"We've been swinging the bats very well, and we had plenty of chances there," Gardenhire said. "I like that. I like the way these guys responded after a bad start."
9: Innings pitched by the Twins bullpen.
23: Home runs for Thome at Target Field.
15: Consecutive games with a hit for Willingham.
Walters (shoulder) will undergo an MRI on Thursday. Prior to Wednesday he did not mention anything to trainers or coaches about shoulder discomfort.
Thursday: vs. Phillies, 7:10 p.m. LHP Scott Diamond (5-1, 1.61) vs. RHP Joe Blanton (5-6, 5.40)
Friday: vs. Brewers, 7:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (1-7, 6.45) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (5-5, 4.21)
Saturday vs. Brewers, 1:10 p.m. TBD vs. RHP Mike Fiers (1-2, 4.50)