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Bullpen struggles as Twins' woes continue

MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- The Twins recalled Zack Littell for Monday's game at Miller Park because they were looking for a fresh arm out of the bullpen. After Kyle Gibson's five-inning start, four pitchers worked three scoreless innings before Fernando Rodney's blown save in the ninth. Manager Paul Molitor called on Littell to work the 10th, with Matt Belisle the only remaining available option in the 'pen. Molitor said he hoped to use Belisle in an extra-inning save situation.

Littell, who went 19-1 as a 21-year-old in High-A and Double-A last season, loaded the bases in the 10th and took his second loss in as many career appearances when he walked Brad Miller to force in the winning run in a 6-5 Brewers victory.

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MILWAUKEE -- The Twins recalled Zack Littell for Monday's game at Miller Park because they were looking for a fresh arm out of the bullpen. After Kyle Gibson's five-inning start, four pitchers worked three scoreless innings before Fernando Rodney's blown save in the ninth. Manager Paul Molitor called on Littell to work the 10th, with Matt Belisle the only remaining available option in the 'pen. Molitor said he hoped to use Belisle in an extra-inning save situation.

Littell, who went 19-1 as a 21-year-old in High-A and Double-A last season, loaded the bases in the 10th and took his second loss in as many career appearances when he walked Brad Miller to force in the winning run in a 6-5 Brewers victory.

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Littell was optioned back to Triple-A following the game.

"It's a learning experience," Littell said. "It's tough right now, but it's a marathon, it's not a sprint. Keep learning from this and get better."

While Littell was superb in the Minors last season, he has struggled in the higher levels in 2018, going 1-6 with a 3.89 ERA. In his Major League debut on June 5 against the White Sox, Littell started, going three innings and surrendering six earned runs.

"I felt a lot more in control tonight," Littell said, "And I was able to slow the game down a little bit. But progress is progress, just keep building on that. It's a process, I'm still young. Just trying to be better every time out."

The most difficult aspect for Littell may have been coming out of the bullpen -- he has started 108 of 115 games he has pitched during his professional career, dating back to 2013 when the Mariners chose him in the 11th round of the MLB Draft.

"You put a young kid in a tough spot, bringing him in there in his second appearance, out of his routine of starting," Molitor said. "There's not a lot of margin of error there. It is what it is."

Video: MIN@MIL: Brewers tie it in 9th, win in 10th on a walk

The Twins, however, seemingly did enough during the loss -- their sixth in the first seven games of a nine-game road trip -- to avoid a 10th inning, and even having to use Littell.

Minnesota's offense, which scored 25 runs in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cubs over the weekend, added five more Monday -- four by way of Robbie Grossman's first career grand slam in the fifth inning. And while the staff's ERA was 8.15 over the last six games, Gibson gave his team a chance to win and exited after five innings with the lead, only giving up four runs (three earned).

Video: MIN@MIL: Grossman belts a grand slam to left-center

But Fernando Rodney blew his second save in as many appearances and sent the game to extras after he allowed three hits, before Travis Shaw's sacrifice fly plated the tying-run in the ninth.

"[Rodney] made some good pitches," Molitor said. "I think all three of the hits were changeups. We just got in a tough spot. Sometimes results are not always parallel to how a guy is throwing the ball. Sometimes, it's tough to throw a zero when you need it."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Littell walks Broxton: Littell was ahead in the count on Brewers right-handed batter Keon Broxton 0-2 in the 10th inning, painting the outside corner and looking like he might be able to escape the frame unharmed. He then missed the zone on the ensuing four pitches, walking Broxton and the loading bases with no outs.

"It backed up," Littell said. "Just threw a couple good ones right before, and I tried to make it better or whatever the case may be. It just backed up on me and got away."

Pinch-hitter Hernan Perez followed by grounding into a forceout at home, before Miller drew the walk to end the game.

Video: MIN@MIL: Wilson keeps toe on the plate for key out

SOUND SMART
Joe Mauer moved into second place on the Twins' all-time games played list Monday with his 1,784 career game. The 35-year-old first baseman, who has only played for Minnesota during his 15-year career, entered the day tied with Kirby Puckett, but now only has Harmon Killebrew (1,939) ahead of him.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Twins turned a miscue into a double play in the first inning Monday.

Running from first base, Jesus Aguilar put on the brakes as second baseman Brian Dozier fielded a grounder with one out in the first inning. Dozier threw to Mauer at first for the out, but he committed an error on his throw to get Aguilar at second, as the ball went into left field. Eddie Rosario misplayed the ball in left, and Aguilar was sent home, but Rosario recovered and threw him out at the plate for a 4-3-7-2 double play.

Video: Must C Curious: Twins' crazy 4-3-7-2 double play

"You go from a soft line drive that could have been a hit," Gibson said, "And [Rosario] made a good play and threw it home. We were able to get him out."

UP NEXT
The Twins send right-hander Jake Odorizzi (3-5, 4.62 ERA) to the mound in the second game of a three-game set with the Brewers on Tuesday at 3:10 p.m. CT. In a game televised exclusively on Facebook Live, Odorizzi will look to replicate his stellar May outing against Milwaukee when he hurled 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball and fanned 10. Right-hander Junior Guerra (4-5, 3.05 ERA) starts for the Brewers.

Stephen Cohn is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen__Cohn.

Minnesota Twins