Generally, fourteen games into a Major League Baseball season is too early to hit the panic button. But, generally, the Minnesota Twins don't look this bad, either.
The Twins wasted a brilliant start by Scott Baker with inadequate offense and lousy bullpen work, and Johnny Damon got his second walk-off hit for the Rays in three days against the Twins, as Tampa Bay won their third straight against Minnesota and their fifth straight overall with a 4-3 win on Saturday at Tropicana Field.
The Twins struck first in this one, taking a 1-0 lead on Jason Kubel's solo home run to lead off the second inning, and added to it in the third when Luke Hughes brought Alexi Casilla home on a ball that wound up being a double play. The Rays got a sacrifice fly off the bat of Sam Fuld in the bottom of the third to cut the deficit to 2-1. The Twins extended the lead to 3-1 on Denard Span's RBI triple in the top of the fifth, and that's how the score stayed until the bottom of the eighth.
That's when, as they say, the fun started.
Matt Capps came in to pitch the eighth, and gave up a lead-off single to Reid Brignac. Brignac advanced to second on a ground out, and after Capps struck out Johnny Damon, Matt Joyce singled to bring in Brignac and cut the lead to 3-2.
Joe Nathan came in to pitch the ninth, and Ben Zobrist hit Nathan's first offering so far that it would have landed in Ocala if Tropicana Field didn't have a roof on it. Nathan then proceeded to walk both B.J. Upton and Casey Kotchman before finally getting an out on John Jaso's fly out to left. Jose Mijares came in to relieve Nathan, and after striking out pinch-hitter Elliot Johnson, he walked Fuld to load the bases. Up came Johnny Damon, and hit a 1-2 fastball into right field to score Upton and win the game for the Rays.
This marks the first time that Joe Nathan has blown saves in back-to-back appearances since August 30 and September 3 of 2008. Nathan took the loss, and his record now stands at 0-1, with an ERA of 8.44.
Baker, as I stated, was great, allowing just four hits and one earned run while striking out six over seven innings of work, but he didn't factor in the decision. The victory went to Tampa Bay's Juan Cruz.
Final game of the series is tomorrow at Tropicana Field, and the Twins will hope to stop the bleeding when Brian Duensing (0-0, 4.15 ERA) takes the hill against the Rays' Jeremy Hellickson (1-1, 4.09). Start time for Sunday's game is at 12:40 PM Central time.