Twins blow chance to move into 1st-place tie
SEATTLE (AP)—What’s this, celebrating and suds in … Seattle?
Adrian Beltre homered in the bottom of the 11th inning, got a thorough pounding at home plate by his victory-starved teammates and then a beer shower after the Seattle Mariners kept the Minnesota Twins out of first place in the AL Central with a 4-2 win on Monday night.
With one out in the 11th, Jesse Crain (5-4) walked Raul Ibanez on a full count. Then Beltre drilled a low, first-pitch fastball over the left-field fence. After he rounded the bases, Beltre was swarmed by teammates—the kind of celebrating the AL’s worst team has seen at their expense far too many times this lost season.
“When I turned third I saw everyone was waiting for me, and I saw what kind of whipping I was going to get at home plate,” said the drenched Beltre, who had been 1-for-7 against Crain.
The man rumored to be on Minnesota’s wish list at the trading deadline already had a sore shoulder and a bad thumb. Now this.
“I’m telling you, I’m not going to play tomorrow. My body is all beat up,” Beltre said, laughing.
The Twins trudged off the field looking beaten down. Instead of forging a tie atop the division, they fell a game behind the Chicago White Sox because of a critical error by shortstop Nick Punto that led to the fourth blown save in 38 chances in the ninth by Joe Nathan, following a leadoff double in the ninth by Beltre.
Two of Nathan’s blown saves have come against the Mariners, who won for the third time in 11 games.
Minnesota dropped to 2-3 on its current 14-game road trip—its longest since 1969. The Republican National Convention takes place next week in Minneapolis. The Twins have set a goal of at least seven wins on a trip that started in Anaheim, Calif., and will continue to Oakland and Toronto after two more games here.
“We miss a play and it ended up costing us a ball game. Go to the ninth, it’s normally a done deal for us,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire spat out in a completely silent visiting clubhouse.
Across the field, the Mariners roared after their second game-ending home run of the month and season, and the sixth walkoff homer of Beltre’s career. It was redemption from the last time Minnesota was in town, Aug. 6, when Beltre was denied a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning by rookie Denard Span’s leaping catch over an outfield wall. That drive was also off Crain.
“Just like we would have celebrated if we were in a pennant race,” said R.A. Dickey (4-8), who pitched a perfect top of the 11th.
Alas, his Mariners (49-82) merely closed to 30 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.
Minnesota also spoiled a successful return by Eddie Guardado.
Hours after he was traded from Texas, the 37-year-old pitched a perfect eighth to temporarily preserve a 2-1 lead, which Delmon Young had given Minnesota with a single in the top of the eighth. Guardado retired Ichiro Suzuki on a ground ball, then Yuniesky Betancourt and Raul Ibanez on meager infield popups in a quick, perfect debut. The entire roster gave Guardado fist pumps in the dugout and pitching coach Rick Anderson put his arm around Guardado after his first appearance for Minnesota since the 2003 AL division series, against the Yankees.
It was the dependable, eighth-inning setup work the Twins have been seeking for months.
“Oh, yeah, that’s what I’m here for,” Guardado said. “It’s great to come back to my old stomping grounds, playing for something.”
But Nathan allowed a leadoff double on a hanging slider to Beltre in the ninth. Then Punto dropped a three-hop grounder from Jose Lopez for an error. Rookie pinch-hitter Jeff Clement hit into a double play that scored Beltre and sent the game to extra innings.
“Beltre did a great job running the bases aggressively,” Nathan said. “Ninety-nine times out of 100, guys don’t run there.”
Nathan is encouraged by how Minnesota’s bullpen looks with team executives adding “Everyday Eddie.”
“The move they made today makes us a lot deeper. It gives us confidence,” Nathan said. “We feel like we have some arms now that, especially for the seventh inning on, we can finish out games.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t work out tonight.”
RHP Miguel Batista, who replaced Dickey in the rotation, lowered his ERA to 6.26 with one of the best starts of his dreadful season. Batista allowed one run and five hits in six innings in his first start since Aug. 4 for the Mariners. … LHP Francisco Liriano allowed five hits and one run in six innings, but did not win for the first time in his five starts since Minnesota recalled him from Triple A. He is 4-0 with a 0.90 ERA in those five starts … Joe Mauer’s career-high 16-game hitting streak was snapped.