Bucs edge Twins on Kang's HR in ninth
MINNEAPOLIS -- After the Twins rallied to tie the game with four runs in the eighth inning, Jung Ho Kang delivered a go-ahead solo homer off closer Glen Perkins in the ninth to lift the Pirates to an 8-7 win Tuesday night at Target Field.
Kang's game-winning blast came on a 1-2 slider from Perkins, who left the pitch up in the zone. It was another rough outing for Minnesota's All-Star closer, who has blown two saves with a 14.73 ERA since the All-Star break.
"A lot of things happened in that game," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "A lot of twists and turns and a lot of hard outs on both sides throughout the game. They put together their rally and it wasn't looking good for us, but we strung together some good at-bats to match the four they put it up. So it's always good to see your team hang in there, but not quite enough."
It came after a wild eighth that saw both teams score four runs. With the game tied at 3, Gregory Polanco had a two-out three-run double in the eighth off lefty Brian Duensing before scoring on a single from Neil Walker to make it 7-3.
The Twins, though, tied it with five straight hits off reliever Tony Watson in the eighth, including an RBI single from Aaron Hicks, a two-run double from Kurt Suzuki and a game-tying RBI double from Eduardo Escobar.
"You don't win until you win -- and tonight was a perfect example of that," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of the give-and-take nature of the game. "I don't know if it was a full moon, or just two gutsy teams out there playing."
Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton and Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey didn't factor into the decision. Morton went 5 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits and four walks, while Pelfrey lasted 5 1/3 frames, giving up three runs (two eared) on five hits and two walks. Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon, who worked out of Watson's jam in the eighth, recorded the last five outs to get the win.
"Melancon was just fantastic," Hurdle said of his closer, who was asked to get more than three outs for only the fourth time in 192 appearances during his three seasons in Pittsburgh.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hicks has impressive night: With the Twins down by a run in the sixth, Hicks came through with a two-out RBI triple to score Miguel Sano, who led off the inning with a walk. It was the second RBI of the night for Hicks, who also had an RBI groundout in the fourth after a leadoff triple from Eddie Rosario. He added a third RBI on a single in the eighth as part of Minnesota's four-run rally. The center fielder also had a leaping catch at the wall in the third to rob Polanco of a run-scoring extra-base hit.
"We knew he could defend, but we were looking for consistency from his at-bats and right now from both sides of the plate, he's giving us production," Molitor said. "He had a that hit down the line to tie the game and then his big hit as part of that rally came from the right side. So it's just good to see him finally getting settled in up here."
Morton keeps it together: The Twins, already leading 1-0, posed a major threat to blowing up the game early, putting runners at the corners with none out in the third. Morton would have none of it. He fanned Sano, then induced Trevor Plouffe to hit into an inning-ending double play.
"I threw a good breaking ball [past Sano], then got the ground ball on the sinker for the double play," Morton said matter of factly of the escape.
Twins catch early break: Joe Mauer started a rally in the first by drawing a walk, reaching second on a balk and then scoring on an error by third baseman Aramis Ramirez, as Travis Ishikawa couldn't handle the throw at first base for the game's first run.
"It's not easy to avoid trying to do too much. You just have to take a deep breath and not overswing." -- Polanco, on how the key to producing more can be not trying to produce too much
"I didn't locate the pitch tonight, but it doesn't have to do anything with my confidence or how I feel. How many games did I throw in the first half? Like 40? And I threw well in like 38 or 39 of them. Bad games are going to happen. I've been saying it all year long. It stinks it's happening right now and that it's lumped together, but I can't do anything other than go out and try to continue to make pitches." -- Perkins
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The Twins had two triples, giving them 28, one more than they totaled all of last season.
Tuesday's game was the Pirates' first one-run game of the second half; they have won 14 of their past 16 one-run decisions after having dropped seven of the season's first 11 such games.
With runners at second and third with one out in the fifth, Escobar fielded a grounder at shortstop from Walker, but opted to throw home to try to get Ishikawa. Ishikawa was ruled safe by home-plate umpire Marvin Hudson, but the Twins challenged the play. After a review, the call on the field stood, as the Pirates tied the game with Ishikawa's run.
Pirates: The Bucs will sign off on another successful summer of Interleague play with their final regular-season game against an American League team, when ex-Twin Francisco Liriano faces his former team in the 1:10 p.m. ET finale of the two-game Target Field set.
Twins: Right-hander Ervin Santana starts for the Twins in the series finale on Wednesday at 12:10 p.m. CT. Santana has impressive in his four starts, posting a 2.60 ERA and is coming off throwing eight scoreless innings against the Angels on Thursday.
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