ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – The Twins have played mostly clunker-free baseball since the All-Star break. But the sounds of opponents mashing their pitching staff suddenly returned Monday.
From Jose Berrios looking scarred from his battles with Corey Dickerson, to the bullpen throwing kerosene on the fire, Twins pitchers just didn’t have an answer for the Tampa Bay Rays, who rolled to an 11-4 victory at Tropicana Field.
Tampa Bay banged out 13 hits, including home runs by Dickerson and Logan Morrison, as the Twins lost by at least seven runs for the 15th time this season. But 13 of those came in the first three months. During their inspired 20-10 month of August, they lost by seven runs just once.
“It was a good game for a while,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said after his team lost for the third time in four games. “It kind of fell apart for us when we couldn’t contain once we went to the bullpen.”
The Twins have shaken off losses like this one before and have to do once again — only this time while in a September postseason race. The Angels won in extra innings at Oakland on Monday to creep within a half-game of second wild-card spot the Twins hold. And the Rays, still believing they can make a run, sit three games back.
“If you want to take a little misstep, that’s fine. It happens,” pitching coach Neil Allen said. “It’s how you respond, how you get back on the horse.”
Berrios (12-7) and Rays righthander Alex Cobb (10-9) entertained with a duel for five innings, with Tampa Bay taking a 2-1 lead in the third on Evan Longoria’s two-out RBI single.
Out for the sixth, Berrios gave up a leadoff single to Logan Morrison, then walked Steven Souza Jr. That brought up Dickerson, who homered in the second and just missed a second homer in the fourth, settling for a double. So Allen sprinted to the mound for strategy against Dickerson, who can drive low pitches but will chase others.
“I said let’s go inside this time, try to get strike one, then let’s elevate,” Allen said. “Well, we did.”
But Dickerson worked the count to 3-2 before lashing a fastball to right for an RBI double and a 3-1 lead. That was it for Berrios. Dickerson was 3-for-3 with a home run, two doubles, two RBI and two runs in three at-bats against Berrios.
“It was one of those nights,” said Berrios, who gave up at least five earned runs for the fourth time this season. “Something just happened to go wrong, and it was their night.”
That was the start of a four-run sixth for Tampa Bay. Morrison homered in the seventh off John Curtiss to give the Rays a 7-1 lead. The Twins scored three runs over the last two innings, but the Rays poured it on.
Curtiss gave way to Glen Perkins in the eighth after a leadoff single. Perkins, making his fifth appearance since recovering from shoulder surgery, loaded the bases before Tampa Bay scored four more runs.
Once again, the Twins have to prove then can rebound after a big loss.
“I’m not worried about these guys coming out and having a lot of fight in them tomorrow,” Molitor said. “You try to keep it in perspective, but understand that every time you can post a win, it’s giving you a better chance to accomplish you goals. I think we will be ready to play.”