After flying high, Twins hit bottom

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 3, 2011 - 12:39 AM

A huge crowd was treated to a seven-run lead. It then watched the Brewers erase it, culminating in a crushing ninth.

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Twins closer Matt Capps was sitting at his locker Saturday night, waiting for the media, ready to dissect what he called possibly the worst night of his career.

The Twins had just blown a seven-run lead in an 8-7 loss to the Brewers, with Milwaukee's final four runs coming off Capps in the ninth inning.

"That was pretty tough," Capps said. "That was embarrassing."

It was the first time in 10 years the Twins had blown a seven-run lead in a loss. They saw their three-game winning streak end and reached the midpoint of the season on a sudden low note, at 35-46.

On a beautiful night, before the largest regular-season crowd (41,378) to see a game at Target Field, the Twins had 13 hits and a 7-0 lead against Brewers starter Chris Narveson by the fourth inning.

With Carl Pavano in a groove, that lead looked pretty safe, but the Brewers scored once in the fifth inning, and Nyjer Morgan hit a two-run homer in the sixth.

Morgan has been an unlikely force for the Brewers since coming in a trade from Washington late in spring training. He's part of a center field platoon with former Twin Carlos Gomez, and on this night he came within a single of hitting for the cycle.

Morgan tripled in the eighth inning and scored on Ryan Braun's grounder to shortstop.

Pavano blamed himself.

"I didn't exactly leave the team a big cushion," he said. "I gave up four runs."

Capps has six blown saves in 19 chances but hadn't blown one since June 8 in Cleveland, when Jack Hannahan hit a tying homer with two outs in the ninth. Three of Capps' blown saves came in games when he had entered in the eighth inning.

This time, he needed three outs and was facing the bottom of Milwaukee's batting order, but he quickly found himself in hot water, as Yuniesky Betancourt, Mark Kotsay and Jonathan Lucroy hit consecutive singles.

Suddenly, it was 7-5, and the Brewers had runners at first and second.

"I was up in the zone and over the heart of the plate," Capps said. "They came out swinging. Leadoff guy got on, I tried to get a double play, they found a hole and it just snowballed."

Pitching coach Rick Anderson trotted to the mound to chat with Capps, as Joe Nathan and Phil Dumatrait began warming up. But Capps retired the next two hitters -- getting Craig Counsell to pop to shortstop and getting Rickie Weeks on a fly ball to deep right field. Even the pitch to Weeks was up in the zone, Capps said, clearly disgusted.

And then came Morgan, who played with Capps in both Pittsburgh and Washington.

"I've seen enough of him to know if I throw a sinker down in the zone, I'm going to be successful," Capps said.

But the sinker didn't sink, and Morgan smashed it off the right field wall. Michael Cuddyer went back for the catch but couldn't quite get a glove on it. Two runs scored on the double.

"I thought I had put it in the seats," Morgan said. "That's why I didn't run to third. I was caught in the moment there."

Braun left the game because of a strained left calf after his eighth-inning RBI grounder. Gomez took his spot in the lineup, and the Brewers sent the lefthanded-hitting George Kottaras to hit for Gomez after Morgan tied it.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire left Capps in the game, and Kottaras singled to right field, scoring Morgan, as pockets of Brewers fans exploded with cheers. Milwaukee closer Jon Axford came on and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to convert his 18th consecutive save opportunity.

"Very tough loss for us," Gardenhire said. "Any time you get the ball in your closer's hand and you lose it's really hard. Not a good night for [Capps]. We'll take our chances with him. It just didn't work out for us tonight."


    Up next: 1:10 p.m. today vs. Brewers at Target Field • TV: FSN (1500ESPN)

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