An ineffective bullpen is hindering the Minnesota Twins’ push toward first place in the AL Central.
After blowing another late lead, the Twins look to avoid falling further behind in the division as they conclude their season series with the Detroit Tigers on Sunday afternoon.
Minnesota (78-64) couldn’t hold a two-run lead Saturday, as Detroit scored four times in the eighth inning to send the Twins to a 6-4 defeat. It was the fourth loss in five games for Minnesota, which dropped 2 1/2 games behind division-leading Chicago.
After starter Scott Baker was replaced with one on and one out in the eighth, Dennys Reyes allowed a two-run homer to Curtis Granderson and Matt Guerrier gave up a two-run shot to Magglio Ordonez to continue the bullpen’s recent troubles.
“They’ve been so good for so long. It’s the last thing you expect,” said Baker of the Minnesota relievers, who took six of the nine losses on a recent 14-game road trip. “Guys are fighting it right now. They’ll endure and they’ll persevere and they’ll get through it.”
The Twins’ bullpen is 0-7 with a 6.49 ERA while the club has lost 10 of its last 14 contests.
“We’ve tried everything, and we’re still trying everything,” said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire, whose team has lost eight times this season when leading after seven innings. “It’s just got to get done.”
For the series finale, Minnesota hands the ball to Glen Perkins (12-3, 4.08 ERA), a left-hander who is seeking his sixth consecutive winning decision but is also looking to bounce back from a bad outing. Perkins allowed four runs and 10 hits in five innings while not factoring in the decision of a 7-5 loss at Toronto on Tuesday.
“It was just one of those nights where I didn’t have anything, really,” said Perkins, who is 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA in three career starts - all this season - against Detroit.
Ordonez had three hits and Granderson had two for Detroit, which won for the fourth time in 13 contests overall and improved to 6-11 against Minnesota in 2008.
Saturday’s victory was the major league-leading 42nd come-from-behind win this season for the Tigers.
“Do you want to just turn it in, or continue to finish up strong and continue to show that this team has great ability to contend versus anybody in our division, or any division?” Granderson said. “That’s the way we are looking at it: Try to finish up as best we can and finish up on a high note.”
Ordonez is batting .439 (18-for-41) with 11 RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak. He is hitting .486 (18-for-37) with five home runs and 13 RBIs against Minnesota in 2008.
Rookie Chris Lambert (0-1, 6.75) makes his third straight start for Detroit. The right-hander, who has never faced the Twins, allowed three runs and six hits in four innings while not recording a decision in a 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.