Twins' 'pen falters in Central hit show

Twins' 'pen falters in Central hit show

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins and the Tigers entered the first game of their series on Monday night as two of the hottest teams in baseball. Minnesota had won 12 of its last 13 games while Detroit had taken 15 of 18 to get over the .500 mark for the first time this season.

With both teams surging, and the Tigers chasing the Twins for second place in the American League Central, there was bound to be some intensity in the series.

It was just a bit unexpected as to how emotionally charged the Twins' 5-4 loss to the Tigers was on Monday night.

The loss involved a potential beanball war, a manager getting ejected and the Twins watching their usually stoic bullpen blow a late lead.

And in the end, the loss that dropped them to 2 1/2 games behind the White Sox in the division race was particularly hard to take.

"We should have won that game," Twins catcher Joe Mauer said. "It's pretty frustrating. We know what those guys have over there. They have a tough lineup and can score runs. But it's a tough loss. We had the lead and let it go."

The drama between the two clubs began early. In the first inning, Twins starter Glen Perkins was facing Carlos Guillen after having already retired the first two batters. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Perkins threw a fastball up and in to Guillen, nearly striking the Tigers third baseman in the head.

Guillen was able to move his head away in time to avoid the pitch, but he then gave Perkins a long staredown. After the game, Perkins said the pitch was far from intentional.

"There is no reason to try and hit him, especially not in the first inning," Perkins said. "He's a good hitter. I tried to make good pitches to him. I didn't want to leave a ball over the plate. It was one that just got away from me. I threw it as hard as I could. It was unfortunate that it went right there."

The Tigers apparently didn't forget about that pitch. With the game knotted at 1 in the third and Mauer at the plate with two outs, starter Armando Galarraga looked as if he might be trying for a bit of retaliation.

Galarraga threw the first pitch -- a fastball -- behind Mauer, which resulted in a slight stare from the catcher. But it was the ensuing pitch that really got tempers flaring as Galarraga threw another one at Mauer's knees.

"Nobody got hit. But obviously it looked like they were throwing at us."
-- Joe Mauer

"I thought it was unnecessary, especially the second one," Mauer said. "Nobody got hit. But obviously it looked like they were throwing at us."

At that point, home-plate umpire James Hoye issued a warning to both benches.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who appeared upset that Galarraga was allowed to throw twice at his catcher's legs without getting tossed, raced out onto the field to argue with Hoye. It resulted in the skipper's third ejection of the season.

Afterward, Gardenhire declined to elaborate on what upset him.

"I think everybody saw what happened," Gardenhire said. "I'm not going to talk about it."

Despite the warnings, Perkins didn't get away from his original plan to pitch inside -- a plan that had proved successful in his first start against the Tigers on May 25 in Detroit.

Sticking to that same plan worked once again for Perkins, as he allowed just two runs on seven hits over his 6 1/3 innings. He walked just one batter while recording a career-high seven strikeouts.

"I got the ball on the inside corner pretty good," Perkins said. "If anything, they are not going to want to see that [inside pitch] after that happens. So I definitely didn't get away from that. I actually got stronger after that happened."

Following the third inning, Perkins retired 10 of the next 11 batters he faced. With Perkins settling in, the Twins were able to build a bigger lead.

After using two early Tigers errors to help score two runs off Galarraga -- only one which was earned -- the Twins tagged the right-hander for two more runs in his final two innings.

Mauer drove in his second run of the night in the fifth on an infield single to the Tigers first baseman, Marcus Thames. In his first game back with the Twins, Denard Span doubled to right field in the sixth inning on a ball that was ruled to have bounced into right fielder Ryan Raburn's glove, scoring another run.

But in the seventh, things started to go downhill at an unexpected time for the Twins -- when they went to their bullpen holding a 4-1 lead.

Perkins exited after giving up a one-out single to Curtis Granderson in the seventh. Jesse Crain then came in and allowed the first two batters he faced to reach base. Dennys Reyes replaced Crain and gave up an RBI single to Guillen -- marking the first earned run allowed by the bullpen in 24 1/3 innings.

After Reyes got the next batter to ground into a fielder's choice, Matt Guerrier came in and stranded the tying run by getting Thames to strike out looking for the final out of the inning.

But trouble found Guerrier (4-3) when he came out once again for the eighth. With one out in the inning, he gave up back-to-back hits -- a pinch-hit triple to right field by Matt Joyce and a single by Granderson -- to give the Tigers their first lead of the night, 5-4.

The Twins tried to muster a comeback with one-out hits in each of the final two innings. But both rallies stalled, leaving the club with what it felt was a surprising loss.

"When you have a lead and you go to our bullpen, it normally holds up," Gardenhire said. "Tonight it didn't ... We just couldn't get them out tonight and we end up losing a ballgame."

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