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Twins rally to force extras before falling short

Burton allows decisive homer after replay-aided ninth-inning rally

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was a wild finish that saw the Twins rally for two runs in the ninth inning aided by two critical replay reviews to send the game to extra innings, and both dugouts clearing in the 10th, but it ultimately ended in heartbreak for the Twins in the 11th.

The Twins had a chance to win the game in the ninth but had to settle with going to extra innings, where reliever Jared Burton eventually served up a three-run homer to Derek Norris in the 11th to hand Minnesota a 7-4 loss to the A's on Wednesday afternoon at Target Field.

Burton gave up a leadoff walk to Daric Barton and a single to Alberto Callaspo before surrendering the go-ahead homer to Norris on a 2-1 changeup. The Twins loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the 11th, but Trevor Plouffe lined out to third base to end the game.

"We finally had the chance to put a couple across and win the game in the ninth, which was pretty fun, but then we gave up the big three-run home run," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But they competed, and got after it pretty doggone good."

Norris' go-ahead blast came after A's closer Jim Johnson gave up two runs in the ninth. It started when he gave up a leadoff single to Jason Kubel before walking Kurt Suzuki, and he got his only out on a failed bunt attempt from Chris Herrmann.

Aaron Hicks followed with a walk to load the bases with one out before Eduardo Escobar dropped in a bloop single to left field to bring home a run. The play was reviewed to see if Suzuki was safe at third as originally ruled, and the play would stand as called.

Johnson was then removed from the game in favor of right-hander Dan Otero, who gave up a sacrifice fly to Brian Dozier to tie the game. Suzuki barely beat the throw home from Josh Reddick, as confirmed by the second replay of the inning.

"He extended the game with two nice slides," Gardenhire said. "He made a nice slide at home, and at third base I don't know what happened there. A big replay. So an interesting trip around the bases. He scored the tying run, but I wish we would've scored the winning run."

Extra innings also saw both benches clear in the 10th after closer Glen Perkins struck out Josh Donaldson to end the inning. Perkins and Donaldson exchanged words after the strikeout, but the incident on the field didn't last long and no ejections were issued.

"There's no disrespect to him, but things happen," Perkins said. "We both could've handled the situation differently, so we'll leave it at that. I talked to him, and then as I was walking away, he yelled, and then the benches cleared. I don't think it got too rowdy."

Right-hander Phil Hughes avoided the loss with the late rally, as he had a rough first inning before settling down in his first start at Target Field since joining the Twins on a three-year, $24 million this offseason.

He walked the first two batters he faced before giving up an RBI double to Donaldson. Brandon Moss followed with a two-run single to left field before scoring on a double from Yoenis Cespedes down the left-field line. Callaspo then laced an RBI single on Hughes' 36th pitch of the inning to give Oakland an early four-run lead.

Hughes didn't record his first out until his 40th pitch of the inning, as he struck out John Jaso on four pitches before getting Reddick to ground into an inning-ending double play.

He got into a groove after the first, allowing just one hit the rest of the way before being removed for left-hander Caleb Thielbar in the sixth inning.

"It was a combination of those jitters and overthrowing and not finding the strike zone," said Hughes, who gave up four runs on five hits over five innings. "I walked the first two guys and from there it kind of unraveled for me. I didn't get the first out until 40 pitches in so it's a tough place to put our hitters."

The Twins were shut down in the early going by right-hander Jesse Chavez, who surrendered just one run on six hits and no walks with nine strikeouts over seven innings. Minnesota scored its lone run against Chavez in the second on a solo shot to right field from Kubel. It was the first homer of the year for Kubel, who tied a career high with four hits.

The Twins scored against reliever Sean Doolittle in the eighth on a solo homer from Dozier to set the stage for their two-run rally in the ninth against Johnson. But the Twins couldn't scratch across another run in the ninth, and Norris' homer ultimately did them in.

"That would've been a real tough one to lose," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "But to be able to come back after a dramatic swing in the ninth inning and keep our wits about us and get some good at-bats was big."

But Perkins said he was proud of his teammates for nearly staging the comeback, and showing passion during the on-field incident.

"I think we need to fight -- we fought back in the game and could've won the game but didn't," Perkins said. "Part of that is just trying to fire up the team and get that going. We need that around here. Some energy and some fight."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.
Read More: Minnesota Twins, Jason Kubel, Brian Dozier, Phil Hughes