Twins battle, but fall in 13 innings vs. Rays
Correia unable to hold on to lead while offense struggles in extras
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Twins had a chance in the ninth, another in the 11th and there was hope yet again in the 13th. But in the end, their losing skid stretched on.
How do you summarize their four-hour, 47-minute affair with the Rays on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field?
"A lot of missed opportunities," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Tampa Bay finally capitalized on those missed opportunities in the 13th inning, when Ben Zobrist's walk-off single against Ryan Pressly sent the Twins to a 4-3 loss, a disappointing result amid a frustrating stretch for Minnesota.
The Rays have won eight in a row against the Twins, and Minnesota has now lost four straight, 10 of its last 11 and 15 of 19 dating back to June 21.
"We missed so many opportunities to drive in a run. As they did," Gardenhire said. "That's the way those games normally go."
But the Rays took advantage of their final chance against Pressly. Shortstop Yunel Escobar singled and, with two outs, took second when Pressly missed his target on a pickoff attempt at first base. Pressly went on to walk Luke Scott, setting up Zobrist's game-winning single to right field.
"It was definitely not where I wanted to throw that pitch. You've just got to tip your hat to him," Pressly said. "There's not really anything I can do about it except make a better pitch."
The strikeouts piled up on both sides. The Twins struck out 19 times, and the Rays went down on strikes 16 times. The 35 combined strikeouts tied the record for the most ever in a Twins game, matching the mark set on Aug. 9, 1967. And Minnesota's 19 strikeouts were the franchise's most in 45 years, tying the club record.
Given the length of the game, the high strikeout totals aren't exactly surprising. But the Twins managed only one walk Wednesday night, showing how this losing stretch may be playing into their overly aggressive approach.
"We chased I don't even know how many balls in the dirt. A ton," Gardenhire said. "Guys are trying to do too much. Stay within yourself. We're swinging like mad men. They've got some pretty good pitchers over there that can throw some nasty stuff. But you've still got to make them throw it in the zone."
The Twins might have had their best chance to get back on track in the ninth. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau opened the inning with consecutive singles to put closer Fernando Rodney on the ropes, but the next three batters went down in order.
They had another shot in the 11th, when Mauer drew a one-out walk and reached third on Ryan Doumit's two-out double to right. But Oswaldo Arcia left Mauer hanging, grounding out to second base.
That scenario played out again in the 13th, when Mauer singled and took third on Doumit's base hit to center, only to be stranded by Arcia's fourth strikeout.
"He's just swinging out of the zone. He's swinging a little crazy there," Gardenhire said. "Young kid trying to do too much, trying to hit an eight-run homer with one guy out there. That's all we need is one guy in, and he's swinging like a mad man."
Gardenhire was able to find a silver lining from Wednesday night's marathon defeat: the performance of the Twins' bullpen. Starter Kevin Correia went 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits and an uncharacteristic five walks while striking out six. He left the game in the sixth after surrendering a game-tying, two-run homer by Kelly Johnson.
"He gave us an opportunity," Gardenhire said. "You'd sure like to see him get through that inning and then we turn it over to a couple guys in relief. It just didn't work out."
From there, the Twins got a combined 6 1/3 shutout innings from Jared Burton, Caleb Thielbar, Casey Fien, Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing. Thielbar got out of a jam in the seventh. Fien worked a perfect eighth. Swarzak struck out four over 2 2/3 innings of work.
"Minnesota's got a really good bullpen. Good arms," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "They match up against you versus righties and lefties. They're impressive out of the bullpen."
They gave the Twins lineup plenty of time to strike. But they couldn't keep the Rays off the board forever, and in the 13th inning, a minute before midnight, all the Twins' missed opportunities finally caught up to them.