Closers fail to live up to job title again

Matt Capps and Joe Nathan blew a two-run lead in the eighth and ninth, and Jose Mijares finished the fiasco.

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ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - Scott Baker did the damage control. Denard Span and Jason Kubel did damage at the plate and on the bases. The Twins looked headed for their fifth victory in 14 games -- a win that would have been much needed.

Then Twins manager Ron Gardenhire turned to his bullpen, and he watched his three best relievers fail.

The Twins were walk-off losers to Johnny Damon and the Rays again Saturday in a 4-3 loss at Tropicana Field. Damon's line-drive single to right off lefthander Jose Mijares scored B.J. Upton to cap a late-inning comeback for the second time in the series. The Twins have lost four in a row.

Before that, Gardenhire watched Matt Capps give up a run in the eighth and closer Joe Nathan give up a game-tying homer to Ben Zobrist in the ninth. Gardenhire had to pull Nathan after he walked two batters following the homer. Nathan, 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA, has blown two saves in this series after converting three in a row.

The visitors clubhouse was silent as the Twins pondered their 4-10 record and official awful start to the season.

"We don't want to dig ourselves too deep a hole,'' Nathan said. "We're going to have to start to figure out a way to get some W's. You keep digging and digging. It is going to be a lot harder to climb out of this.

"Keep grinding, keep working, It can't keep going like this all the time.''

Capps and Nathan have faltered in the same game twice this series and, in turn, have made Damon look like a savior. With a walk-off homer Thursday and the RBI single Saturday, Damon has five consecutive games with game-winning RBI for the Rays, the most since Anaheim's Troy Glaus did it six times in a row in May 2002.

Kubel homered in the second inning, Luke Hughes' double-play grounder brought in a run in the third and Span's RBI triple in the fifth gave the Twins a 3-1 lead through seven innings. After a strong performance by Baker, Gardenhire pulled his starter after seven innings of one-run ball on four hits and 96 pitches thrown.

Baker admitted he rarely tries to talk his way into another inning but said he felt pretty good after the seventh.

Gardenhire went to his bullpen -- and it let him down again.

"We got to our two closers, Gardenhire said, "and it didn't work out.''

Gardenhire admitted that he did consider using Mijares in the eighth inning since Tampa Bay had six lefthanded hitters in the lineup and no dangerous righthanded hitters on the bench.

But he went with Capps because of his pedigree.

"When you set up your bullpen with Matt in the eighth and Nathan in the ninth, you want to start changing all of a sudden?'' Gardenhire said.

"I trust Matt Capps. He's a closer.''

Matt Joyce made it 3-2 in the eighth with an RBI single. Nathan entered in the ninth and showed how his road from Tommy John surgery last year has not been smooth.

''I have to take a look at the big picture,'' Nathan said. ''To be where I'm at at this timeframe is still pretty good. That's the positive I have to look at, that I'm competing, and hopefully this helps me in the long run.''

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