ST. PETERSBURG -- It was an unlikely comeback, followed by an apparent dramatic game-winner, then a ninth-inning gut-punch. Ultimately, it was a 10th-inning defeat -- by an inch.The Twins experienced all of that during Friday night's emotionally draining 8-7 loss against the Rays at Tropicana Field."Sometimes baseball just isn't fair,''
ST. PETERSBURG -- It was an unlikely comeback, followed by an apparent dramatic game-winner, then a ninth-inning gut-punch. Ultimately, it was a 10th-inning defeat -- by an inch.
The Twins experienced all of that during Friday night's emotionally draining 8-7 loss against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
"Sometimes baseball just isn't fair,'' Twins outfielder Max Kepler said.
It looked like an 11th inning was necessary when Denard Span's two-out hard grounder was speared by diving first baseman Joe Mauer, who sprang up and underhanded it to reliever Zach Duke, covering on the play.
But first-base umpire James Hoye ruled that Span was safe, allowing pinch-runner Johnny Field to score from second base with a head-first slide. It went to replay. With both teams on the field, uncertain of the outcome, the call was upheld and the Twins had a bitter defeat.
"We couldn't tell from the dugout whether he dragged his foot or missed it, or got it on the second clip,'' Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Our people said it was inconclusive. It was just a tough way to lose.''
"I felt I got a piece of the base,'' Duke said. "But apparently they didn't see it on the replay, so it doesn't matter that much. It's tough. I need to do a better job of touching the base.''
It spoiled a riveting comeback by the Twins, who rallied from a 6-2 deficit to tie in the eighth on Eddie Rosario's two-out, two-strike grand slam off reliever Sergio Romo.
The Twins put themselves in position to win when Kepler hit a one-out solo home run off reliever Ryan Yarbrough in the ninth inning.
"Yeah, that could've been [the game-winner], but that's baseball,'' Kepler said. "Sometimes, you hit a line drive off a guy who's throwing 100 [mph], but it's right at somebody. It doesn't seem fair. But in this game, things don't always work out for you. It's rough because we did a lot tonight.''
Just not quite enough.
Twins closer Fernando Rodney blew the save opportunity. Rays first baseman Brad Miller smacked a two-out RBI single, which bounced off the mound and glanced off the glove of leaping shortstop Eduardo Escobar, forcing extra innings.
"Fernando has been throwing the ball pretty well,'' Molitor said. "He just hasn't had a lot of luck.''
Twins starter Lance Lynn didn't have much luck either. Making his third start of the season after signing as a free agent on March 12, Lynn allowed five earned runs and five walks in six innings.
"I've got to cut down on the walks,'' Lynn said. "I don't know if it has ever been April 20 and I'm making my third start [referring to the Twins' four postponements]. It's kind of playing catchup. But I think I found the rhythm to go to the next one.''
The Rays began taking command on a two-run double by Span, providing a 3-2 fifth-inning advantage. Span helped to pad that lead with an RBI single to highlight a three-run seventh.
The 6-2 advantage wasn't enough for the Rays. The Twins loaded the bases with one out, but Romo struck out Miguel Sano. With an 0-2 count, Romo's 74-mph slider was lifted into the right-field bleachers by Rosario.
"We did a lot to get back into the game and it looked like we had control of it,'' Molitor said. "Then it got away.''
The Twins opened the scoring on Logan Morrison's solo homer in the second off Chris Archer. It was hisfirst homer for the Twins and it came against the team he played for in 2016-17. The Twins took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on Robbie Grossman's RBI grounder.
The Rays then took command. But that merely set the stage for the frantic finish.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rodney was one out away from locking down a 7-6 victory after striking out Span and C.J. Cron in the ninth inning. But Rodney hit Carlos Gomez, who then stole second. "I'm not big on an intentional walk with my closer out there,'' Molitor said. So the Twins opted to face Miller, who delivered a game-tying single that hit the mound and glanced off the glove of Escobar.
Mauer, who drew an eighth-inning walk off Romo, has reached base in 27 straight games against the Rays. At Tropicana Field, he has reached base safely in 35 of 36 games.
HE SAID IT
"There's an awful lot to absorb in this game, almost too much. At the end of the day, we have to move on from it. That's what we intend to do. Tomorrow's another day.'' -- Kepler.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
What else? The play that decided the game. With two outs in the 10th, Span's grounder was gobbled up by a diving Mauer at first base. Mauer underhanded to Duke, who was covering. But first-base umpire Hoye called Span safe, ruling that Duke's right foot didn't touch the bag. The call on the field was upheld by replay after a 2 minute, 16 second review.
The Twins will try to solve Rays left-hander Blake Snell (2-1, 2.95 ERA) in Saturday night's game. Snell has been proficient at getting swings and misses in two career starts against the Twins -- 14 strikeouts against just two walks in 9 1/3 innings -- but he has a 6.75 ERA in those outings. The Twins counter with right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-0, 3.68). The Twins have a 21-9 record at Tropicana Field over the past eight seasons.
** Joey Johnston ** is a contributor to MLB.com and is based in St. Petersburg.