OAKLAND, CALIF. – Two clutch at-bats. A late lead. Closer Glen Perkins on the mound with his sparkling save streak. The way things have gone for the Twins this season, Saturday’s game looked to be locked up.
Then it all turned so quickly.
The Athletics responded with a run in the ninth inning against the Twins’ indomitable closer, then Stephen Vogt’s RBI single in the next inning put the Twins away as Oakland won 3-2 in 10 innings on Saturday.
The Twins were 0-34 when trailing after eight innings before their dramatic seven-run rally July 10 against the Tigers. They were set to make it two in a row Saturday.
Brian Dozier was behind in the count 0-2 to starter Scott Kazmir when he hit a grounder to the left of third baseman Brett Lawrie. Lawrie fielded the ball, spun and threw wildly to first, allowing Dozier to move to second. Kazmir was pulled after 112 pitches and 8⅓ shutout innings.
Tyler Clippard came in and got ahead 0-2 vs. Torii Hunter but plunked him on the shoulder. Mauer came to the plate to face Clippard, who had held lefthanded hitters to a .088 batting average. Clippard got ahead 1-2, but Mauer fouled off two pitches and fought back to get the count full. Clippard threw a breaking ball and Mauer hit it off the right field wall for a tying RBI double.
Rookie Miguel Sano stepped into the big moment and was unflappable, hitting a ball deep enough to right field to score pinch runner Shane Robinson.
“Joe had a really had a good at-bat,” manager Paul Molitor said. “And Sano got the sacrifice fly.”
Perkins got the first two outs in the ninth, then Lawrie grounded hard toward short. Eduardo Escobar made a fine diving stop, but his throw was a hair late. Then Perkins was charged with a wild pitch, enabling Lawrie to move to second. Pinch hitter Jake Smolinski, hitting .143 at the time, followed by blooping a tying RBI single to left.
Perkins’ consecutive save streak ended at 28 games.
“I put myself in that spot and I didn’t work my way out this time,” Perkins said. “It was bound to happen. I’ve said all along I’m going to blow a save. I’m going to blow more than one. I’ve got to be able to bounce back. I’d love nothing more than to get the ball tomorrow and win a series.”
Billy Burns led off the bottom of the 10th with a double to right-center off Casey Fien. On Fien’s second pitch to Vogt, Burns stole third.
“The stolen base was disappointing,” Molitor said. “We saw him bluff on the first pitch like he wanted to go. We tried to get their attention to slow him down. That was a big play.”
With the infield in, Vogt slapped a single to left to end the game.
It was a dramatic ending for a game that began with Kazmir locked up in a duel with Phil Hughes. The Twins righthander pitched six shutout innings, but in the seventh he gave up his 23rd homer of the season, a solo shot by Billy Butler.
“I didn’t think he got it all, but he got enough of it,” Hughes said. “You’ve hoping in those games that you’re not the first guy to break or make a mistake.”
The Twins had the bases loaded in the first with one out, but Kazmir escaped. But when they scored twice in the ninth, both starters were off the hook.
“You have a chance to have a nice comeback,” Molitor said. “We had that feeling. Two outs, two strikes there. And things just kind of went haywire on us.”