OAKLAND, CALIF. – Taylor Rogers remained on the mound in the ninth inning Saturday night, trying to earn the first save of his professional career. But it hasn’t gone well lately for either him or his team.
Rajai Davis’ two-run homer to center crushed those hopes as the Athletics rallied for a 5-4 victory, sending the Twins to their fifth loss in six games and a season-high seven games back in the AL Central.
“Those are tough. That’s three games this trip we haven’t been able to close out,” manager Paul Molitor said. “And it just goes to show you, you can’t take for granted the value of outs late in games and people who can handle that. And Rogers has been really good. He’s had a little bit of a rough trip here [lately].”
Rogers was subbing for Brandon Kintzler, who was given a day off after throwing 26 pitches to earn his 28th save Friday. The All-Star closer had thrown 99 pitches over the past seven days.
“We were obviously without Kintzler tonight,” Molitor said. “We were just trying to find a way to get through it the best we could.”
With Rogers ticketed for the save, Buddy Boshers pitched the eighth inning in Rogers’ place and the Twins up 4-2. Boshers served up a two-out home run to Matt Chapman, pulling Oakland within a run.
Rogers came in and got the final out of the eighth inning. The Twins threatened but failed to score in the ninth, and in the bottom of the inning, Rogers threw two strikes to Adam Rosales before losing him to a walk, bringing up Davis. The veteran outfielder then slugged a fastball over the fence for his fourth home run of the season, giving Oakland manager Bob Melvin his 1,000th career victory.
Rogers, who has a major league-leading 23 holds this season, had a 1.93 ERA through July 19 but has given up three home runs over his past four appearances, and the past two have tagged him with the loss. He gave up a three-run homer to Detroit’s Justin Upton on July 22; a three-run homer to Cody Bellinger on an 0-2 pitch Monday against the Dodgers in Los Angeles; and then Saturday’s shot by Davis.
Before the latest collapse by the bullpen, it looked like Miguel Sano was going to have the critical hit, as his two-run homer in the fifth gave the Twins a 4-1 lead.
Sano struck out three times, giving him a major league-high 141 strikeouts. But for one at-bat, he showed why he is an All-Star. After striking out swinging in each of his first two plate appearances, Sano got ahead 3-1 on A’s righthander Chris Smith, then belted a fastball over the right-field wall.
Sano appeared to have lost that skill in recent at-bats. In 12 games before Saturday, he hit .227 with two home runs, six RBI and a whopping 18 strikeouts. He began the day as the major league leader with 138 whiffs, on pace for 221, smashing his club record of 178 set last season.
The Twins led 4-1 at the time. Zack Granite had given the Twins a 2-0 lead with a two-run single in the second inning, extending his hitting streak to nine games. The inning could have been so much more, as the first five Twins reached base. But with the bases loaded, Brian Dozier hit into a force play at home, and Kepler and Sano then struck out (Kepler struck out four times). The Twins left 10 men on base.
“The disappointing part was that we had a chance to separate ourselves a little bit early in the game,” Molitor said. “And we didn’t have too good of at-bats to take advantage of some situations. So we had to find a way to hold on.”
Added Sano: “It happens in those situations. No one is perfect in the game. We need to keep going and keep our heads up and win some games.”