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Minnesota Twins lose third straight to Yankees on a walk-off

Minnesota Twins lose third straight to Yankees on a walk-off
NEW YORK -- It's like a Broadway show, what the Yankees have going here this weekend: Sell pricey tickets to a beautiful theater, provide a compelling plot with a few memorable scenes, then throw in a big finish so the customers go home happy. Curtain, chorus (the ceaseless "New York, New York"), do it again tomorrow.

Great fun for the tourists. Torture for the Twins .

And after a third straight agonizing walk-off, a brilliant pitchers' duel that Johnny Damon turned into a 3-2 Yankees victory with a 10th-inning solo home run, Ron Gardenhire made it clear he would like to see some new actors in a few of the leading roles.

Well, one role in particular. The bullpen has been all but incapable of holding a late lead or preserving an extra-inning tie, particularly in the past week, with Joe Nathan, Craig Breslow and, on Sunday, Jesse Crain trudging off the Yankee Stadium grass with a loss. The Twins haven't experienced three straight days of walk-off torment in almost 36 years, and they are now 4-11 on the road.

Things will change, Gardenhire said -- including some of the players. He's going to start giving "take" signs to players who haven't shown proper instincts for the game, he'll start fining players for missing signs and, most notably, he will try some different players.

"We've got people looking right now to see if we can get something done. We've got to have some help," Gardenhire said. "We're going to try something, I would imagine."

Mike Radcliff, the Twins' vice president of player personnel, is in Rochester, Gardenhire said, checking out a Red Wings staff in which left-hander Sean Henn owns a 1.23 earned-run average in 22 innings, Juan Morillo has struck out 15 batters in 11 innings and held hitters to a .139 average, and Anthony Swarzak has a 2.25 ERA in 44 innings. Former general manager Terry Ryan is in New Britain but has found the Twins' Double-A prospects "not quite ready," Gardenhire said.

Still, Gardenhire said he won't sit still while the excruciating losses -- six straight on the road and 22 of the past 25 in New York -- take chunks out of the psyche of what he believes is an American League Central contender. Crain's ERA is now 9.00, Breslow's stands at 7.11 and Luis Ayala -- who has fallen so far out of favor, he's pitched only twice since May 3 -- is at 5.63.

"Right now, we've only got a few who are throwing good," Gardenhire said.

On Sunday, that fact obscured a magnificently pitched game by the starters. Kevin Slowey and A.J. Burnett were brutally efficient through six effortless innings. Slowey resembled a young Greg Maddux in the way he bedeviled hitters with four-seam fastballs that started inside, then veered across the plate. Burnett was a latter-day John Smoltz, working in the mid-90s with a fastball that dive-bombed the plate.

Both starters faltered in the seventh inning; Matt Tolbert lifted a two-out single to drive in Carlos Gomez, and Nick Punto alertly scored on a pitch in the dirt that catcher Kevin Cash briefly couldn't find. The Yankees immediately recovered to tie the score, however, on Alex Rodriguez's second home run in two days, a double by Hideki Matsui and a sacrifice fly that Denard Span threw off course to the plate.

"I just didn't get a good feel for it," Span said. "It just didn't come out the way I wanted it to."

Neither team scored again until the 10th, despite some blue-ribbon chances -- and because of some heroic plays.

The Twins left the bases loaded in the seventh and eighth innings, failed to move Joe Mauer off first base when he led off the ninth with a single and generally got way too anxious, as though blinded by the lights of Broadway. Michael Cuddyer was caught off second base on a come-backer to the mound. Jason Kubel looked at a third strike with the bases loaded. And Tolbert and Gomez popped up on 2-0 pitches when getting on base was critical.

Those mistakes were offset by some splendid plays, however. Chief among them was Mauer's desperate dive to tag out Brett Gardner at home plate, but the Twins also got an amazing sliding catch in foul territory by Punto and a gutty strikeout of Matsui by Jose Mijares, after getting down 3-0, to leave the bases full of Yankees in the eighth.

But the storyline eventually played out as though scripted by Yankees Inc. Damon, the Yankees' second hitter in the 10th, hit Crain's sixth straight fastball a half-dozen rows deep into the right-field seats. He circled the bases, almost appearing embarrassed to inflict the pain, and received the requisite shaving-cream pie in the face moments later.

"I've never been through anything like this -- three walk-offs, consecutive days," said Span, but, of course, nobody on this team has. The Twins' last triple walk-off was in August 1973. "Hopefully by the time you wake up in the morning, you forget about the last few days."

And if you don't, this show mercifully closes tonight. The Twins only hope they don't take it Off Broadway, too.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 18, 2009

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