Twins manager Paul Molitor went to the mound in the seventh inning Saturday. Two runs were in, two runners were on and it looked as if he was going to remove starter Ricky Nolasco.
“He asked me how I was feeling,” Nolasco said. “I said I was good to go.”
Molitor left Nolasco in, and the righthander retired Ike Davis to end the inning. The Twins had a two-run lead after Nolasco went seven strong innings, taming the Yankees offense until Alex Rodriguez’s two-run homer earlier in the seventh.
Yet all of Nolasco’s impressive work was undone over the next two innings, thanks to a high changeup, a passed ball and a wild pitch when the Twins bullpen took over.
New York scored all its runs over the final three innings and came back to topple the Twins 7-6 at Target Field. The Twins have lost five consecutive games for the fourth time this season, doing the things that 20-48 teams do.
“It was real difficult,” Molitor said of how the game got away from his team. “We’ve had a lot of losses. You don’t ever want to get comfortable. We’ve had trouble winning games that we have had a chance to win late. There’s not been a lot of those either.”
Nolasco held the Yankees to two runs on eight hits and no walks with five strikeouts. Of his 93 pitches, 67 were strikes, or 72 percent. The Twins led 4-2 through seven innings, thanks in part to a two-run homer and sacrifice fly by Byung Ho Park.
Molitor, citing the heat, elected to activate the bullpen instead of trying to get more out of Nolasco. Buddy Boshers got the first out in the eighth, but Brett Gardner reached on an infield hit, so Molitor brought Kevin Jepsen in to face Carlos Beltran.
Jepsen got Beltran to miss a 1-1 curve, then pull another curve foul. Jepsen thought Beltran then would pull a changeup down and away for a possible double-play grounder.
“It was up,” Jepsen said, “and he didn’t try to pull it.”
Beltran pounded it into the seats in left for a tying two-run homer. It was the sixth home run off Jepsen this season, and the first this month.
Fernando Abad gave up a walk and bunt single to start the ninth, then catcher Juan Centeno had a pitch get by him for a passed ball. That led to an intentional walk to Rob Refsnyder to load the bases and set up force plays. But Jacoby Ellsbury lashed a two-run single to right, through a drawn-in infield, to give New York a 6-4 lead. A wild pitch — one Centeno could have blocked — enabled the runners to move up again. Refsnyder then scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 7-4.
Centeno has played in 18 games. He has been charged with two passed balls. And there have been 12 wild pitches on his watch.
“It changes your defense on what you can do,” Molitor said. “You have to be able to throw balls in the dirt. Juan’s been working hard at it. I think there’s been improvement. But a couple got away today.”
That extra run proved eseccostly. The Twins got back-to-back homers by Eduardo Escobar and Kurt Suzuki in the ninth off closer Aroldis Chapman, but pinch hitter Trevor Plouffe grounded out to end the game.
Jepsen was asked how frustrated the bullpen is after a loss like the one Saturday.
“I think you can say that about the 2016 Twins in general,” he said. “I can speak for myself, and I’m frustrated.”