Things got interesting. Then things got heated. Then things fell apart for the Twins on one bad pitch.
Their late comeback Wednesday at Target Field took them into extra innings before Derek Norris’ three-run homer on a fat pitch from Jared Burton led to their 7-4 loss to Oakland in 11 innings. That’s eight consecutive losses to the defending AL West Division champions.
But most of the postgame dealt with diving into a 10th-inning incident between the Twins’ Glen Perkins and Oakland’s Josh Donaldson that led to players from both benches running onto the infield — and Perkins assuring everyone that showing a little attitude can be a good thing.
“I know what happened out there,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Straight entertainment.”
Down 4-2 in the ninth, the Twins got an RBI single from Eduardo Escobar and a sacrifice fly from Brian Dozier to tie the score in front of an announced crowd of 22,973. Kurt Suzuki had an excellent adventure during the inning. He barely beat throws to third and home plate on successive plays to tie the game, with the crowd roaring when video replays showed him touching home plate with his left hand just before being tagged.
Perkins entered the game to pitch the 10th. With two outs and Jed Lowrie on first, Donaldson hit a long drive down the left field line that slid foul. Perkins struck Donaldson out with the next pitch and could be seen barking at him. Donaldson began marching toward Perkins and pointing at him. Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe and Paul Molitor stepped in front of Donaldson while the rest of the benches emptied.
Donaldson said that even though the crowd was loud, he could hear Perkins swearing at him, adding: “OK, whatever. I didn’t feel like I disrespected him at all. I’m up there trying to win the game for our team and he’s trying to win the game for his team, juices are flowing. I don’t know what it was all about. … I’ve never even spoken to the guy. I think I’ve faced him twice.”
Perkins was asked if Donaldson’s big swing and backpedaling during the strikeout bothered him, he said, ‘‘It could have.”
Both teams were issued a warning then. “I asked if I could challenge that,” Gardenhire said.
Perkins sounded like someone tired of 96-loss seasons when asked if it’s OK to display such intensity.
“I think that’s good,” the All-Star closer said. “I think we need to fight. We fought back in the game and we had a chance to win it in the ninth and we didn’t. I got out of the two-out walk and … yeah, that’s trying to fire up the team and get guys going. We need that around here. We need some energy. We need some fight, and I think the guys around here appreciated it.”
It was not the first time this year the Twins have fired back at something they didn’t like.
On March 26 during a 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh during spring training, Anthony Swarzak got into a brief shouting match with the Pirates dugout. Swarzak had hit Tony Sanchez with a pitch in the fifth inning. In the sixth, a hard-hit ball by Travis Snider struck Swarzak in the forearm. While Swarzak picked up the ball and threw Snider out, he heard someone from the Pirates dugout yelling at him and returned in kind. Umpires stepped in to make sure things didn’t escalate then. In an attempt to connect some dots here, Oswaldo Arcia was hit with a pitch and Suzuki was buzzed inside earlier in that game.
So it appears that these Twins aren’t afraid to show a little attitude. Displaying some fire or sticking up for a teammate can give a team something to rally around, but doesn’t fighting back and winning games do the same thing?
The Twins know that their pitching staff can step up, like it did in posting nine scoreless innings following the A’s four-run first on Wednesday, and that they can take advantage of a struggling closer, a role played by Jim Johnson on Wednesday.
Now we have to see if they can finish off comebacks. And we have to see what their rediscovered fire is going to do for them.