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La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

Postgame: Vargas ended Twins' streak of futility with two-run homer

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Twins lost for the 10th time in 11 games on Wednesday, but it was the Royals who felt worse: They were officially eliminated from wild-card contention, ending their hopes of defending their world championship. Here are two extras from the night:

    Kennys Vargas didn’t realize he had broken up a streak of historic proportions. He was busy trying not to do too much.

    Vargas launched his ninth home run of the season on Wednesday, a two-out, two-strike blast off Kevin McCarthey in the sixth inning, to tie his career high and drive home two runs. That was significant because the Twins had played 106 consecutive innings without scoring more than one run in an inning, the longest such streak of futility in 74 years.

    “I just tried to put into the game what I’ve been working on with [hitting coach Tom Brunansky]: Stay short,” Vargas said of the swing that tied Wednesday’s game 2-2. “I did, and I got a home run.”

    The last time a team went so long without a two-run inning was in 1942, when the Phillies played 109 straight innings from May 23-June 3 without putting a crooked number on the scoreboard.

    “It’s part of the game,” Vargas said of the unfortunate streak. “Some years good, some years not too good.”

XXX

    Taylor Rogers absorbed his first loss as a major-leaguer after being charged with all three Kansas City runs in the eighth inning. But manager Paul Molitor insisted that Rogers was not to blame.

    “It’s not on him,” Molitor said. “He’s done a really nice job this year overall, transitioning [from being a starter to the bullpen]. He’s been reliable as well as available. It’s just one of those nights where a couple pitches didn’t go where he wanted to, and he had to deal with the consequences. But I’m not faulting him by any means.”

    That’s because the game-tying hit wasn’t hit particularly hard, just a fly ball by Kendrys Morales that landed fair by two feet and bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double, scoring Jarrod Dyson scoring from third.

    “It looked like it got in on him a little bit, but he’s big and he’s strong,” Molitor said of the game-breaking hit by Morales, who now has 30 RBIs in September. “I was  trusting Rogers a little bit, giving him a chance to get off the field. And [Morales] just dunked it down there.”

No surprise: Santana on the mound for his final Twins start this season

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Paul Molitor sees a lot of himself in Ervin Santana. No, Molitor couldn’t pitch, but he shares a similar approach to the game, and demeanor on and off the field with his best starting pitcher.

    “There are some things we do pretty well as far as trying to maintain a certain evenness in the way we go about things, regardless of what’s transpiring on the field,” Molitor said. “He’s very steady.”

    Santana has pitched very well since mid-June, posting a 2.35 ERA over his past 17 starts. But the Twins are 7-10 on those games, and Santana has collected only one win since Aug. 16. Yet his serene demeanor in the Twins’ clubhouse, always smiling even during the worst of his team’s losing streak, hasn’t changed.

     “You just hope people are watching and learning. We don’t have a lot of veterans, but we are fortunate to have a few who have had a fairly high level of success and have accumulated resumes that speak for themselves. And he’s one guy you hope some guys are watching,” Molitor said. “I know [rookie Jose] Barrios has really done a pretty good job of trying to observe some things from Ervin, and that’s probably where he can be the most helpful in trying to pass it on to one of our young guys.”

    That’s why Molitor wasn’t surprised when Santana insisted on making his final start of the 2016 season tonight, even after being given the option of shutting down a week early. Molitor said he might try to limit the pitch count of Santana, whose 176 innings lead the team, but then again, if the game is close, maybe he won’t.

    Santana will face Jason Vargas, the Royals lefthander who is making only his third start of the season after returning from Tommy John surgery.

    Here are the lineups for tonight’s game, in which the Twins try to avoid tying the franchise record of 102 losses:

TWINS

 

Dozier 2B

Polanco SS

Grossman LF

Sano DH

K. Vargas 1B

Kepler RF

E. Escobar 3B

Murphy C

Buxton CF

 

Santana RHP

 

ROYALS

 

Dyson CF

Merrifield 2B

Hosmer 1B

Morales DH

Perez C

Gordon LF

Orlando RF

A. Escobar SS

Cuthbert 3B

 

J. Vargas LHP

Final, 9/28 R H E
Minnesota 56-102 2 8 1
Kansas City 81-77 5 8 0