St. PETERSBURG, FLA. – The Twins ended their 10-game road trip Thursday the same way they opened it, with a loss. But nearly everything that happened in between allowed them to return to the Twin Cities feeling good about their wild-card chances.
Tampa Bay rallied from a two-run deficit to beat the Twins 5-4 and salvage one game of the three-game series. Lefthander Tommy Milone couldn’t hold a lead, and the Twins didn’t get some of the breaks that went their way in other games during the trip. Miguel Sano hit a ball in the third inning that should have been a home run but hit the catwalk, costing the Twins a run. Kurt Suzuki got five-holed by a Neal Cotts pitch in the sixth, a passed ball that allowed the eventual winning run to score.
The Twins still finished with a 6-4 record on the trip, a huge achievement given that their journey began with three losses to the Yankees in New York. They then won six in a row to claim the second wild-card spot Wednesday. They relinquished it Thursday, but are one-half game behind Texas for that spot.
“You try to get greedy,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “You try to get more when you are rolling and kept the momentum going. Hopefully we will look at the bigger picture coming off of this trip, how we recovered and put together a nice little run.”
Tampa Bay rallied with three runs after falling behind 4-2. J.P. Arencibia knocked in Tim Beckham with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning to make it 4-3. Joey Butler’s single in the sixth drove in Logan Forsythe with the tying run. Butler took second on the throw home, which should have been cut off by first baseman Trevor Plouffe, but he couldn’t get there in time.
“That was costly,” Molitor said.
Butler moved to third on a groundout, then scored when a Cotts pitch to Kevin Kiermaier slipped under Suzuki.
“He was throwing that little cutter-slider and I went down to block it,” Suzuki said. “If I had stayed up and try to catch it instead of block it, then I catch it.”
Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, which included a solo home run by Forsythe off Milone. The Twins got one run back in the second on Suzuki’s RBI double and looked to have taken a 3-2 lead in the third when Sano hit a majestic drive to left-center with Brian Dozier on first base.
“That one was mashed,” Suzuki said.
The ball was headed well beyond the fence when it struck one of the catwalks that circle the roof of Tropicana Field, hitting the middle catwalk called the B Ring. Ground rules state that the ball is in play when that happens, and Sano settled for a double while Dozier scored.
“It’s been that way for a while,” Molitor said of the rule, “and you just have to live with it.”
The Twins could complain about the quirkiness of indoor stadiums, but how often did the Metrodome gods smile upon them from 1982-2009?
It was a sign it wasn’t going to be the Twins’ night. Eduardo Escobar homered in the fourth — his third in two games — and Suzuki scored when shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera bounced a throw past Daniel Nava at first on Shane Robinson’s grounder as they took a 4-2 lead. But Milone failed to pitch at least six innings for his third consecutive start since coming off the disabled list Aug. 16, and the Twins were shut out over the final five innings.
A winning road trip to return to the thick of the pennant race made the loss less painful.
“We lost [Thursday] and still won the series,” Twins outfielder Torii Hunter said. “If we keep trying to win series from here on out, we’re giving ourselves a chance.”