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Updated: August 12th, 2012 4:34pm
Tenth-inning groundball to Dozier a hot topic in Twins' loss to Rays

Tenth-inning groundball to Dozier a hot topic in Twins' loss to Rays

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Scott Diamond put together seven solid innings once again, but the Minnesota Twins bullpen was unable to hold things together as the Tampa Bay Rays -- courtesy of a four-run 10th inning -- left town with a 7-3 win and brooms in hand.

The skinny

In a late-inning bullpen battle, it was the Twins who blinked first.

With the scored tied 3-3 in the top of the 10th inning, the top of the Rays lineup loaded the bases with one out against Alex Burnett. It was a bouncer to shortstop by Jeff Keppinger that allowed Desmond Jennings to score the go-ahead -- and eventual winning -- run from third base.

Shortly after, Ryan Roberts singled home two off Casey Fien, and Matt Joyce doubled home another to give the Rays a 7-3 lead.

The Rays struck early for the third straight game, this time via solo home run by Jennings to lead off the top of the first inning. Keppinger added a solo home run in the top of the second inning to give Tampa a 2-0 lead.

After Josh Willingham reached on an error by shortstop Sean Rodriguez, Justin Morneau tied the game with a towering home run to right field in the bottom of the second.

The Twins took the lead in the bottom of the third inning on an RBI single by Joe Mauer, but Tampa tied it in the fifth when Rodriguez doubled home Ryan Roberts.

Despite getting hit around early, Diamond managed to go deep into yet another start. He completed seven innings for the fourth consecutive outing, allowing three earned runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out six.

"I don't think I threw some of those pitches with as much conviction as I should, so I was just kind of regrouping in the dugout and getting back to what makes me successful," Diamond said. "I talked it over with Joe (Mauer) about how we were going to approach the guys and just got back to throwing strikes and working back down in the zone."

Rays starter James Shields also allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk while striking out two in seven innings.

The Twins wasted two fantastic opportunities to take a lead against Shields.

Willingham led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a double. Morneau advanced him to third base with a groundball to the right side, but Ryan Doumit grounded out and Alexi Casilla flew out to deep left to end the inning.

Dozier reached second base to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning when Rays right fielder Ben Zobrist was unable to track down a deep fly ball. Brian Dozier moved to third on a sac bunt by Jamey Carroll, but neither Darin Mastroianni nor Ben Revere were able to drive him home.

Turning point

The slow-roller in the 10th inning by Keppinger which plated the go-ahead run was a hot topic in the clubhouse after the game.

It appeared initially as if shortstop Dozier had an opportunity to either throw home for a force out, or to make a tough flip to Alexi Casilla at second base for a potential 6-4-3 inning-ending double play. Instead he elected to get the sure out at first base, which also guaranteed Jennings would score.

After the play, manager Ron Gardenhire came to the mound for a pitching change and a meeting and had what he called a productive conversation with Dozier.

"I talked with him about what his thoughts were and he had good thoughts," Gardenhire said. "He knew the runners and the speed at third base. All we talked was situational baseball late in the game like that. Your two options are to try to turn the double play in my opinion or go home. But he had good thoughts. He got kind of screened by the runner after he caught the ball so that was his play. I just want to know his thoughts on the play. He's out there. We're not. Everybody has an opinion on where he should've thrown the ball.

"But I'm going to back my player here. He did what he thought was right. He saw the speed, the whole package and got the out at first base. He's the one out there playing the game."

Dozier said he processed every possible scenario quickly and concluded that there was a "100 percent" chance Jennings would score from third base, and that turning a 6-4-3 double play was next to impossible as well.

"First of all, I'm playing regular double-play depth. That's where they had me playing," Dozier said. "Desmond Jennings, one of the fastest guys in the league, is at third. If I'm playing in and a ball is hit softly to me, we still don't get him out. That's No. 1. No. 2 is it's a slow roller. I could have tried to go second, but to be honest, there's no chance.

"To be honest with you guys, a smart infielder makes sure he gets one out right there. It's bad luck, but at the same time, you've got to make sure you get one out. I'm an aggressive player that if I try to go two and get one out at two, it's bang-bang either way. We for sure 100 percent would not turn a double play. One hundred percent. But if I get one out at second base or first base, it's the same thing. ...

"Everybody would have done the same thing. Every shortstop in the league would have done the same thing. Tough break."

Dozier added, "One little thought as I'm catching it - which was an almost impossible play - but as a slow roller, try to come back to second base. But as I caught it, you can either try to get one out at second or one out (at first). You don't turn a double play no matter what. It's kind of just bad luck, to be honest with you."

Numbers game

8: The number of times the Twins have been swept in three game series this year.

16: Home runs for Morneau.

201: Career home runs for Morneau, who is now tied with Gary Gaetti for sixth on the Twins all-time list.

28: Stolen bases for Revere.

Health report

Denard Span left the game early after injuring his shoulder on an awkward dive in the sixth inning.

Matt Capps (shoulder) will have a follow-up MRI on Monday. If all comes back clean, he will resume throwing again on Wednesday.

Trevor Plouffe went 0-for-4 in a rehab game for Triple-A Rochester on Saturday night, but his bruised thumb came out feeling OK.

Carl Pavano (shoulder) was scheduled to throw three innings for High-A Fort Myers on Sunday.

Anthony Swarzak (shoulder) threw a bullpen session on Sunday.

On deck

Monday: vs. Tigers, 7:10 p.m. RHP Samuel Deduno (3-0, 3.27) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (6-9, 4.37)
Tuesday: vs. Tigers, 7:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (2-7, 4.46) vs. RHP Doug Fister (6-7, 3.48)

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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