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Twins come up short against Clemens

Twins come up short against Clemens

NEW YORK -- Just two days ago, the Twins were feeling good about their offense.

They had tagged the Tigers' pitching staff for 19 runs over the first two games of their long road trip and felt like they were on the verge of a run.

Then, they ran into a buzzsaw of two very difficult pitchers, and there went the offensive onslaught.

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One night after Tigers right-hander Jeremy Bonderman held the Twins scoreless over eight innings, Yankees veteran righty Roger Clemens nearly matched the effort. Clemens allowed just one run on two hits over eight innings to pick up his 350th career win as the Twins lost at Yankee Stadium, 5-1.

"Obviously you want to win, but you can't get discouraged with those two guys who you just faced," Michael Cuddyer said after the team's second straight loss. "It's like when we went on the West Coast and faced those Oakland guys. It's the same thing. You run into good pitchers and it's tough to get hits."

Monday was eerily similar to the previous night, as the two teams were once again knotted up for most of the contest thanks to a stellar pitching duel. While Scott Baker was dominant in the 1-0 loss to Detroit on Sunday, Boof Bonser was delivering a solid outing himself just one night later as the two clubs entered the sixth inning tied at 1.

Even though he was less dominant than Baker, Bonser was getting out of the jams he created for himself. Entering the sixth, he seemed to have found dominating stuff, as he had just struck out the side in the fifth inning while facing the Yankees' Nos. 3-5 hitters.

Momentum appeared to be on Bonser's side, but it didn't last long. With one out in the inning, Bonser (5-5) hung a slider to Bobby Abreu that he quickly deposited in the upper deck in right field to give the Yankees the lead back.

"I pretty much went to war with everything I had," Bonser said. "I guess you could say it didn't work out in my favor."

The inning would slowly unravel from there, as it turned into a four-run sixth inning for the Yankees. Bonser then made two more pitches that he called mistakes, giving up a double to Andy Phillips and a single to Robinson Cano before he was pulled.

Juan Rincon then replaced Bonser with one out in the inning and runners at first and third. Two straight walks were issued by Rincon, allowing one run to score and making it a 3-1 game.

But the damage kept on coming. Matt Guerrier was brought into the game, and it looked like he would get out of the inning on what appeared to be a double-play ball off the bat of Derek Jeter. Instead, the ball squirted under the glove of third baseman Jeff Cirillo and into left field. It was ruled a hit, scoring two more runs for a 5-1 Yankees lead.

"It was kind of an in-betweener, but a play he's supposed to make," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Cirillo's miss. "It took kind of a funny hop and ended up playing him into a base hit. I don't know if that's a base hit or not, but it ended up playing into a base hit."

And while the Yankees were finally able to get to the Twins' pitching staff, Clemens (2-3) continued his dominance over the Twins. The Twins came into the game hitting just .204 as a club off the veteran pitcher. Clemens, who has the most career wins against Minnesota of any pitcher, pretty much kept the club from having any opportunities on the night.

Cuddyer was one of two Twins to get a hit off Clemens, and scored the Twins' lone run in the second inning on a Jason Kubel groundout.

As for what Clemens was doing to make him so tough, Torii Hunter said it was the same things that have made him so difficult for much of his career.

"His velocity is not 95 [mph] anymore, it's like 91, but I think he's smarter," said Hunter, who is 0-for-25 against Clemens in his career. "He was hitting the outside corner, inside corner, and not leaving too many balls over the plate."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Clemens was getting hitters behind in counts early. Much of it was due to what Gardenhire and some of the club's hitters felt was a sizeable strike zone that played into Clemens' strengths.

"There was a great zone for him back there, and he knows how to use it," Gardenhire said. "And that's no surprise, because he's been around a long time."

It was a tad frustrating, considering the Twins weren't able to capitalize on a strong outing by a starter for the second straight night.

"Boof threw well," Cuddyer said. "He battled out there and made big pitches when he had to and got a lot of strikeouts. If we could have gotten him runs, it likely would have been a different story. He pitched well enough to win."

And with the club scoring just one run in its last two games, it would appear easy for the Twins to get down on themselves. But the team wasn't allowing itself to believe that two games dictate the state of their offense -- especially considering their competition.

"We had a couple of rough days in a row against good pitchers, quality pitchers," Gardenhire said.

And Hunter, for one, seems glad to be past those two pitchers.

"I'm glad we don't face a Clemens or a Bonderman every day," Hunter said. "If I had to face those two guys all the time, I'd hit .100."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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