"We kept battling and getting after it, but they end up hitting balls in the seats," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And we can't catch those. We didn't pitch badly tonight, but they hit some solo home runs on us and we couldn't figure out how to get to their guy."
Left-hander Glen Perkins, who had seen time in a relief role the past two seasons for the Twins, made his first Major League start, tossing six-plus innings and allowing just three runs -- all coming on solo homers.
But the start featured a bit of a challenge for the left-hander even before it began. Perkins' equipment did not show up at the Metrodome in time for the game, meaning some quick maneuvering had to take place to get him ready to pitch.
Perkins, a Minnesota native who lives in Lakeville, Minn., during the offseason, had an extra glove lying around his house. And he borrowed a set of cleats from teammate Nick Punto.
Despite the mishmash of equipment, Perkins looked quite poised on the mound, holding the Red Sox to just one run over his first six innings -- a solo shot by Kevin Youkilis in the second inning.
"I've used the glove before, and Nicky has the Nike cleats and I've used those, so I think it was more fun than anything," Perkins said. "Maybe it took my mind off the game. It didn't bother me."
During those first six innings, Perkins was cruising through a difficult Red Sox lineup using mostly his "new" sinker. It's a pitch that the left-hander has used before, but he said he developed it even more this season at Triple-A Rochester. It appeared to be effective, as while Perkins struggled with pitches up in the zone in his earlier big league stints, this outing featured most of his pitches ending up below hitters' knees.
That is until Perkins came out for the start of the seventh inning, facing the bottom of Boston's lineup. After falling behind No. 8 hitter Coco Crisp, the southpaw left a fastball up which Crisp belted 392 feet deep into the left-field seats. Crisp's first home run of the season quickly turned what had been a 2-1 Twins lead into a tie game.
And just as fast, the Red Sox got back on top. The next hitter, rookie shortstop Jed Lowrie, went deep on a 1-2 curveball which had appeared headed to the dirt. The solo shot was also Lowrie's first Major League home run.
"That was probably the most frustrating pitch of the night, because it was probably the best curveball I threw, and he went down and got it out," Perkins said. "I don't think he's a guy with a whole lot of power, but he put a good swing on it, and that's what happens, I guess."
Perkins would exit the game following the back-to-back homers. But the long-ball show wasn't done just yet. In the eighth inning, Brian Bass allowed another dinger -- this one a solo shot to Mike Lowell. Bass gave up one more run in the top of the ninth, although that one didn't feature any balls in the seats.
Neither of the two Twins runs came on homers. But one did score thanks to another area of weakness for the team -- walks. In addition to ranking last in the Majors in homers, the Twins also came into Saturday's contest ranking last in free passes (75).
But the Twins knew that Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka had trouble with walks in his previous outing, issuing eight in that start. And early on, Minnesota seemed to try to take advantage of that knowledge. Joe Mauer drew a two-out walk in the first that didn't materialize into anything.
Yet Michael Cuddyer led off the second inning with a walk that did eventually turn into the Twins' first run. Matsuzaka loaded the bases by allowing singles to Delmon Young and Mike Lamb. And Carlos Gomez surprised many by drawing a walk for the second night in a row. The bases-loaded walk drove Cuddyer home and knotted the game at 1.
Gomez's walk would be the last that Matsuzaka would issue on the night. The team scored one run in the fifth after Matt Tolbert led off the inning with a double to left and Justin Morneau drove him home with an RBI single to center.
But the fifth was the only inning after the second in which the Twins had more than one runner on base.
So did Matsuzaka make the adjustment or did the Twins grow impatient?
"We had a couple walks, but for the most part, he was in the strike zone and mixing his pitches," Lamb said. "For a few of us, that's the first time we've seen him. I think we were at a little disadvantage this time. Hopefully we'll make some adjustments next time and do better against him."
Getting a few extra home runs to mix in with their offense might be helpful, as well, although the Twins don't appear too concerned about their lack of power.
"We have to keep plugging away and keep trying to put some good swings on it," Gardenhire said. "I think some of these guys will get going as we go. I think we've got some people with some ability to hit home runs, and hopefully they'll start clicking on some balls as we go along here."