Three extras from the Twins’ fifth straight losing series at home; they haven’t won a series in Target Field since Cleveland was here April 25-27:
Byron Buxton and coach Butch Davis had a late film session after Sunday’s game, just to trouble-shoot the play that may have changed the decisive ninth inning.
Steven Souza’s leadoff double bounced past Buxton at the bullpen fence, allowing Souza to reach third base. Buxton was charged with his second error of the season.
With the game tied 5-5, that extra base meant Kevin Jepsen had to pitch on the defensive the entire inning, and ultimately the Rays scored twice to earn their third win in four games.
“I’m kind of kicking myself a little bit,” Buxton said. “Going back and looking at the video, there’s not too much else I could do, other than just, I guess, try to corral the ball. But if I would have corralled the ball, it would probably have been an easy triple because I would have gone to one knee.”
Instead, he tried to reach the ball in a hurry, in order to hold Souza at second. But the ball took an odd bounce off the padding, he said.
“Everything I did was pretty good. I got to the wall, my head was down on the ball, I didn’t pop up,” he said. “It just kind of hit off the concrete and bounced back up, hit the pad, and when it came down, it shot back between my legs. Tough break.”
The break was especially tough for Jepsen, who realized with the tying run on third, he had to try to strike out the side. It changed the way he pitched, and greatly increased the likelihood he would fail.
“I’ve got to go for strikeouts. … I’m going for the strikeout with the curveball,” Jepsen said. “Kurt [Suzuki, the catcher] did an amazing job blocking them against [Curt] Casali, but at that point, I’m not putting anything in the zone that he can put into play, not with a man at third.”
The walk didn’t bother him, since the bases were open and he was only focused on keeping Souza at third.
He whiffed Tim Beckham, who check-swinged at a pitch head-high. Then he battled with pinch-hitter Nick Franklin, and walked him too, loading the bases.
“I just couldn’t put him away. I felt like I had him [at 2-2], then threw the next two balls,” Jepsen said. “Especially with him coming off the bench, to get two strikes, I’ve got to put him away.”
At that point, manager Paul Molitor considered going to lefthander Fernando Abad to face lefty Brad Miller, but decided against it with righthander Even Longoria on deck. “Just kind of hoping for a strikeout,” Molitor said. “He got ahead of Miller and couldn’t put him away. … You think back on those things.”
Miller got a high fastball a couple inches wide of the plate, but reached out and “tomahawked” it to left, Jepsen said, a line-drive sacrifice fly that scored Souza. Then Jepsen went to 3-2 on Longoria, all fastballs, before trying a curve. His friend and former teammate lined it to center, scoring an insurance run.
“At 3-2, it’s a curveball, I’ve thrown it for strikes. It’s just giving him a different look, as opposed to just feeding him another fastball,” Jepsen said. “Everyone knows what type of player he is. He’s a great hitter.”
The Twins had a couple of great scoring chances early in the game, but couldn’t cash in. One in particular stands out: They loaded the bases in the second inning with one out, bringing up Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer. But Dozier popped up to second and Mauer struck out, ending the threat.
It also extended a terrible trend: The Twins are now 5-for-42, or .119, with the bases loaded, worst in the major leagues. And with two outs? Somehow the Twins are 0-for-18 on the season now, the only team in baseball without a two-out, bases-loaded hit.