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Twins strand 14 to spoil Pavano's effort

Twins strand 14 to spoil Pavano's effort

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins had plenty of opportunities.

They had what they needed to complete a sweep of the Brewers to start a nine-game homestand, but they fell short.

Although they had managed to overcome leaving 17 men on base in Saturday's 12-inning victory over Milwaukee, the Twins weren't able to make up for their inability to bring runners home in Sunday's finale. This time, they stranded 14 men on base in a 4-3 loss to the Brewers at Target Field.

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Sunday was the epitome of missed opportunities for the Twins. Pitcher Carl Pavano gave up only six hits while the offense left the bases loaded on two occasions in the game -- the latter coming in the ninth inning.

"Baseball's cyclical," right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "Sometimes you're gonna get them in and sometimes you're not. That's the nature of the game. Unfortunately, today we didn't get the opportunities in. We gave ourselves a lot of opportunities, they just didn't come through. That's just the way the game goes."

Trailing, 4-2, the Twins had a rally going in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and Orlando Hudson on second, Jason Kubel hit a single to right field to score Hudson and bring Minnesota within one. From there, Delmon Young hit a grounder up the middle to put runners on the corners. A walk by pinch-hitter Jim Thome loaded the bases for the Twins.

All eyes then turned to Trevor Plouffe, who was playing in only his third Major League game. With the fans at Target Field on their feet, many of them sporting their rally caps, Plouffe struck out swinging on the third pitch he saw to end the game.

Plouffe said that right-hander John Axford surprised him by throwing a first-pitch slider with the bases loaded for a strike, which got the 23-year-old shortstop antsy. He swung at the next two pitches, which he admitted were out of the zone.

"It's not the end result I wanted, but it was good that we battled back," Plouffe said. "I liked being put in that position. I wanted it. It just didn't end up how I wanted."

Pavano was handed his fourth loss in five starts as his record dropped to 4-5 on the season. He struggled early in the game, allowing four consecutive batters to reach base and one run to score in the first inning. However, he settled down from there and gave up only four runs in his remaining seven innings.

His only other trouble came from the long ball. Pavano gave up a two-run homer to Corey Hart -- a 440-foot blast that carried into the first row of the third deck -- in the fourth inning and allowed a solo blast from Prince Fielder in the sixth.

"I beat us with those two homers," Pavano said. "That was definitely the deciding factor. In the first inning, with bases loaded, they squeezed in a run. I like that we won the series and that overall, we played good baseball."

Manager Ron Gardenhire said Pavano kept the game within reach for the Twins and pitched deep into the contest, something that he's been doing for much of the season. The right-hander's eight innings against the Brewers marked the sixth time in nine starts this season that he has lasted at least seven.

Instead, it was the inability to convert with runners on base that seemed the most frustrating part of the loss. Over the three-game series, the Twins left a total of 39 men on base.

They did see some offensive success in the third inning when they scored two of their three runs. Hudson's single to left field scored Denard Span from second, and Justin Morneau's double to right-center field scored Hudson. The Twins left one man on base that inning.

The only frames in which the Twins did not leave any runners on base were the seventh and eighth, the same two innings in which Minnesota didn't produce any hits.

Morneau thinks the Twins' struggles with runners in scoring position has to do with thinking too much about getting a big hit.

He added the Twins need to think about the positive outcomes in those situations rather than thinking about the negatives that can come from striking out or hitting into a double play.

"Sometimes, we just need to simplify," Morneau said. "You've got the bases loaded, I think we're worried about getting all three guys in instead of getting the guy in from third, let the guy behind you do the job and knock the next guy in and do it one at a time instead of trying to get the big hit. It's one of those things where sometimes the simplest approach is the easiest."

Jocelyn Syrstad is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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