As has been the case for the Twins for much of the season, the little things came back to haunt the club in a 6-5 loss to the Indians at Jacobs Field.
"When you are winning, you can get away with a few mistakes," catcher Mike Redmond said. "When you are not playing as well as you can, every mistake hurts you. That's maybe the way it's been for us all year. Every mistake hurts."
The Twins came into Cleveland riding a high after sweeping the Orioles in a four-game series for the first time in club history. Yet it seems all of that momentum has been lost, as the Twins have dropped two straight against the team they are chasing to drop to 7 1/2 games back in the American League Central.
And no matter how close the Twins may be to earning a victory, these contests still keep ending up on the wrong side of the column.
"It's tough," Torii Hunter said. "These are very important games and we lost two of them. We were out there battling trying to make a comeback with a good team, but they were just the better team again today.
A few mistakes from starter Boof Bonser proved costly early in the game for the Twins. Despite giving up just two hits over the first three innings, both of them would end up as runs for the Indians.
Bonser gave up two homers on the two hits, one a two-run shot by Travis Hafner in the first inning and the other a solo shot by Grady Sizemore. Suddenly it was a 3-0 Cleveland advantage.
Indians starter Jake Westbrook had allowed one more hit than Bonser over that time, but he was able to keep the Twins off the board until the fifth.
That's when Minnesota was finally able to score some runs off Westbrook (5-7). A leadoff single by Brian Buscher got the rally going. Then, with one out in the inning, the top of the Twins order delivered four straight singles to knot the game up at 3.
With momentum seemingly on the Twins' side, a little blip in the inning prevented the Twins from possibly taking a lead. Hunter delivered the third of the four straight singles, but when he ran too far past first base, he got caught on a tag play. Hunter didn't seem to agree with the call, and manager Ron Gardenhire came out to argue the play, earning his sixth ejection of the season.
"I was safe, I didn't feel him at all," Hunter said. "But it's a bang, bang play. You can't do anything about it."
That missed chance at a lead didn't take long to hurt the club, as Bonser gave up a leadoff single to Jhonny Peralta in the bottom of the fifth. He then intentionally issued a two-out walk to Sizemore to try to get to the Tribe's second baseman, Asdrubal Cabrera. Another misplaced pitch to Cabrera turned into a base hit, scoring the go-ahead run.
"It's always frustrating when we get so close and then let it slip away," Bonser said.
Spectacular defensive plays over the next two innings kept Bonser from giving up any more hits on the night. A barehanded grab and throw by Nick Punto behind second base in the sixth beat Ryan Garko to first, and Hunter added his own spectacular nab by crashing into the wall in the seventh. In all, Bonser (6-11) allowed just the four runs on five hits over seven innings.
Pat Neshek came into the game in the eighth and couldn't find his way out of a jam. Ryan Garko hit a single to left field, scoring a run, and Peralta followed with a sac fly to center to give Cleveland a three-run advantage, 6-3.
"Hit a guy, a walk, a base hit -- if we could have kept that within one run, we probably would have won that game," Redmond said. "It just didn't happen."
Still, the Twins had a chance to recover. Indians closer Joe Borowski came into the game tied for the American League lead in saves with 37, but he has shown to be fallible at times this season.
Making up three runs in the final inning, though, is far different from just one. And it showed when the Twins fell one run short in their final rally.
The Twins could manage just two off Borowski. Buscher delivered a solo homer to start the inning, the first of his Major League career, capping off a 3-for-4 night at the plate. Jason Tyner laid down a bunt single and Jason Bartlett followed it up with a double down the third-base line. With runners at second and third, Hunter delivered a sac fly for yet another run.
With two outs and a runner at second, Justin Morneau stepped up to the plate as the go-ahead run. But Borowski got the reigning AL MVP to strike out looking, earning his 38th save of the year.
"We gave ourselves a chance at the end," Gardenhire said. "The right guy was at the plate, it just didn't work out."