Glen Perkins bent over at the waist, hands on knees, watching a second home run in the ninth inning sail into the distance.
The Twins’ All-Star closer has been so good, so dominant, so darn near perfect all season that it felt strange to see him in this position — ineffective and struggling in the ninth inning of a ballgame.
Usually, it’s the other way around, with Perkins beating up on his competition, always in control of the situation. Usually, that’s his time to throw heat and make hitters look helpless.
But as Saturday night revealed in stunning detail, Perkins is vulnerable to an occasional hiccup that proves costly.
The New York Yankees roughed up Perkins with two home runs and four runs total in the ninth to rally for an 8-5 victory that ruined what started as another festive night for the largest home crowd in four years at Target Field.
Perkins had not allowed two home runs in a game as a reliever. Ever.
He had given up only six runs total in 40 innings this season. The Yankees got to him for four runs on five hits before he was lifted with two outs.
Despite Perkins’ remarkable run early in the season, a blown save was bound to happen eventually. He started the season with 28 consecutive saves before blowing his first one last week at Oakland.
His second one left him frustrated because he was unable to locate the ball where he wanted.
“I’ve said all year, I’m going to blow games,” Perkins said. “I’m not going to be able to go out there and hit every spot. I feel like I hit almost every spot the first half of the season.”
Perkins said Saturday’s outing marked the first time all season where he failed to locate his pitches. It felt like an extra hard kick to the shins because it came against the Twins’ nemesis in a game that the home team looked comfortably in control of early on.
The Twins blew a five-run lead by allowing the Yankees to reel off eight unanswered runs, mostly off the bat of Alex Rodriguez.
Rodriguez made mincemeat of Twins pitching all game, launching a trifecta of home runs that needed telescopes to be viewed.
The start of the ninth inning delivered the Twins’ best vs. the Yankees’ best.
Handed a 5-4 lead, Perkins gave up Rodriguez’s third mammoth blast on the first pitch of the inning. Perkins wanted a fastball up in the zone. Instead, he threw it low and Rodriguez made him pay.
“It’s a little bit of shock there,” manager Paul Molitor said. “You’re ready to throw your first pitch and all of a sudden it’s a tie game.”
Perkins wanted to challenge Rodriguez. He trusts his stuff. He just made a bad pitch.
“I threw everything in the wrong spot tonight,” Perkins said. “Credit to him for getting the first pitch. Man, not too many guys swing at the first pitch off me in the ninth.”
Mark Teixeira followed Rodriguez’s home run with a single. Chase Headley also singled.
Two on, one out, with catcher John Ryan Murphy coming to bat.
Perkins threw a 2-2 slider that he wanted down. Instead, he missed his spot again and Murphy hit the ball over the right-center wall.
“That was up and away,” Perkins said. “That’s obviously not where I’m trying to throw it. If that ball is down, I like my chances. Missed my spot.”
Nights like that happens sometimes, even to the best in the game. Perkins has slammed the door shut so many times this season to preserve wins. His 31st save opportunity of the season had a different outcome.
It was a strange sight.
“It [stinks],” Perkins said. “It’s magnified. I’ll learn from that. Just got to be a little more careful and trust in my mechanics and pitch selection. Just got to put the ball where I want it and it will be OK.”
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org