A combination of missed plays, missed hits and overall missed execution allowed the Twins to be swept by the A's in an 8-3 loss at McAfee Coliseum in Game 3 on Friday.
"It's very unlike our ballclub," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We picked a bad time to have some bad ballgames. But just because we had a bad series here doesn't take away from what we accomplished. It's just disappointing ... we felt we could carry this thing on a little farther."
There was hope coming into Friday's game that the Twins would rally after falling to 0-2 in the series. Sending 12-year veteran Brad Radke to the mound in what likely was the last start of his career, the Twins felt it might be the spark the club needed.
But after a quick 1-2-3 first inning, things didn't go quite so well for Radke.
Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez belted a solo home run with one out in the second inning. Jay Payton then followed with a single to center and was brought home on a Marco Scutaro two-out double for a 2-0 lead.
The A's got to Radke once again in the third, when Milton Bradley delivered a two-run homer over the center-field wall to make it a 4-0 game. Radke (0-1) threw a total of 83 pitches before his outing was finished after four innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits.
"I feel bad because I gave up three, four runs and let the team down a little bit," Radke said. "I guess it just wasn't meant to be."
But it wasn't Radke's performance that kept the Twins from having a chance.
Torii Hunter got the Twins back in the game in the fourth when he blasted a 1-0 pitch from A's starter Dan Haren into the left-field seats to make it a 4-1 game.
The Twins looked to continue that comeback in the sixth as back-to-back hits by Justin Morneau and Hunter put runners at second and third with one out. Rondell White then lined a shot into shallow right field to score Morneau, and Hunter also attempted to score on the play. Bradley's throw came in time to home plate and Hunter was called out, even though it appeared that he may have slid under the tag of catcher Jason Kendall.
Three errors were charged to the Twins, two of which accounted for five runs, and it was those mistakes that proved to be the real difference in the ballgame.
The mostly costly of those errors came in the seventh inning, when the Twins were behind by two runs. Reliever Dennys Reyes began the inning by recording two outs, but he then walked two batters, one intentionally, before being replaced by Jesse Crain. It looked like Crain would get out of the inning by getting Jay Payton to hit a grounder to first base, but a fielding error by Morneau loaded the bases and extended the inning.
Crain then walked in one run before giving up a three-run double to Scutaro that finished off any hopes of a comeback.
"It's probably the three worst games we've played since I got called up in June," shortstop Jason Bartlett said.
"I don't want to say we hit a wall," closer Joe Nathan said. "We went out there and busted our [tails]. We went out and made some mistakes here and there and we didn't do the little things. We're not going to go into this offseason with our heads hanging low.
Instead of ending the year in celebration, the Twins' spectacular run ended with some handshakes and consoling hugs in the visiting clubhouse at McAfee Coliseum.
"We all feel bad right now, but Gardy said, 'Keep your head up, because we're a young team,'" Bartlett said. "He knows how bad it feels right now, but we did have an awesome season -- especially coming back from where we were."
Surely the finish wasn't what the club had envisioned, but the Twins managed to put together one of the most impressive runs to earn the American League Central championship -- a goal that seemed impossible earlier in the year.
It didn't provide solace for the group on Friday, but the hope was that eventually, things would change.
"Right now it doesn't mean a whole lot, but when we're sitting at home in December looking back on the year, we'll know that we did some pretty special things that nobody really expected us to do," Morneau said. "It's tough right now, but this team is the best team I've been a part of. It's not the way we wanted it to end, it but we'll keep our heads up and move on."