Twins’ Pagán’s rough outing leads to grand slam, loss to Dodgers

LOS ANGELES — Kyle Farmer got his start at Dodger Stadium, so he knows what he's talking about.

"When you play here, you can never count those guys out at any point in the game," Farmer warned during his homecoming. "Anything can happen. The crowd can get behind them, and then it's loud and there's a lot of anxiety out there."

Emilio Pagán felt that anxiety on Wednesday, and by the time he was done, so did the Twins and their fans. Pagán walked the first hitter he faced in the seventh inning to load the bases, walked the next hitter to force in the tying run, then surrendered a 407-foot grand slam to straightaway center field, sending the Twins to a bitterly disappointing 7-3 loss to the Dodgers.

"I thought that was a pretty good spot for EP to get out there and attack those guys," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "It didn't go the way we wanted it to."

Not even close. Dodgers outfielder James Outman had the big hit off of Pagán, who had not blown a save or even allowed a home run this season. But even Pagán, who blew seven saves last season, five of them on devastating home runs, conceded that the memory of these throw-away-a-win moments all but erases any positive results that came before it.

"How I've been throwing doesn't matter" after a loss like this, he said. "But moving forward, I have to lean on that. My stuff is really good. I just didn't have it today."

And thus, the Twins don't have have their first-ever winning series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

If a Pagán meltdown was a reprise of an old and persistent problem, their offense was struck with a much newer yet just-as-persistent one: Loading the bases and failing to score. Joey Gallo tied the game with a leadoff home run in the sixth inning, then Alex Kirilloff and Carlos Correa singled and Byron Buxton drew a walk.

Once the Dodgers brought in lefthander Victor González, however, things changed quickly. Jorge Polanco popped up, Donovan Solano struck out and Farmer flew out to deep left field, dropping their MLB-worst average to .125 — 5-for-40 — with bases loaded. They're 0-for-9 with a walk when it happens with nobody out.

"The bases-loaded thing, I don't have an answer for," Baldelli said. "I don't think anyone does. … Really, all we've got to do is get a good swing. Just hit it forward. If you hit it forward, a lot of good things can happen."

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Sort of like Buxton and Gallo did, each of them smacking long home runs, the Twins' usual strategy, that kept the game close. But they used an entirely new scoring method, for them anyway, to take the lead in the seventh. The Twins stole their sixth base in the three games here, the most in one series since Baldelli became manager, and it nearly stole the game.

Willi Castro broke for third base in the seventh inning of a 2-2 game, and though Dodger lefthander Caleb Ferguson anticipated the play, he threw wildly past Max Muncy. Castro jumped up and scored the tie-breaking run, and the Twins' dugout was alive with excitement.

"Seeing the pitcher doing one look, two looks, I really had him timed up. When they see an aggressive runner on the bases, the pitcher gets a little bit shaky," Castro said. "It was good baserunning today."

But the good mood didn't last long. José De León, a former Dodger making his Twins debut, struck out Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, but then allowed singles to Will Smith and Muncy. Baldelli turned to Pagán, who had allowed only two inherited runners to score in his 15 appearances this year. The righthander immediately made matters worse, walking Jason Heyward on six pitches to load the bases. Pagán admitted he missed his target on the first four pitches to Heyward, but maintained that "three of the four were strikes," which could have ended the inning.

Baldelli agreed. "He made some good pitches on Heyward," the manager said. "We didn't get any of those close pitches that are 50-50 type calls."

The walk to Miguel Vargas was more egregious, coming on five pitches, most of them not close.

Determined to throw a strike to Outman, Pagan left a knee-high fastball in the middle of the plate, and Outman drove it over the center field fence.

"I kind of lost the feel for what I was trying to do. The cutter wasn't any good. Got in some bad counts and then made one real big mistake," Pagán said. "Doesn't matter what I've been doing lately. Today, I didn't have it."