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Twins, Bullpen Can't Complete Sweep Of Rays

First, the good news: the Twins banged out 14 hits on Wednesday afternoon. Their lone All-Star once again proved why he belongs on the squad. Jim Thome knocked in a couple runs. Anthony Swarzak had three strikeouts in just two innings of work.

Now, the bad news: pretty much everything else.

Minnesota's series finale against the Rays was a roller coaster affair that ultimately ended by coming off the rails. Tampa Bay exploded for seven runs in the final two innings to cement a 12-5 victory over the Twins.

Twins' starter Francisco Liriano was fighting it all day, and it was pretty evident from the first batter on. Liriano plunked Johnny Damon to start the game, and he would end up with three HBP on the day (including Damon for a second time in the third inning, who was replaced by Sam Fuld his next at bat). On top of the three hit batsmen, Liriano walked four and gave up six hits in just 4 1/3 innings. By the time Swarzak took over in the 5th, the Twins were trailing 5-2 and reeling. But Swarzak was able to pitch two shutout innings to help the Twins get back in the game.

With two out and two on in the bottom of the 5th, Jim Thome came through with a clutch single that scored both Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Alexi Casilla and brought the Twins within a run. Thome attempted to tie the game after a single by Rene Tosoni, but the comically slow Thome was thrown out by a good ten feet to end the inning.

The Rays threatened to extend their lead in the top of the seventh, but Jose Mijares and Alex Burnett came on to get two big outs. In the bottom of the seventh, it was time for Minnesota's All-Star to shine. After already knocking in two runs earlier in the game, Michael Cuddyer hit a solo blast to left center. Cuddyer's 13th home run of the year tied the game at 5 and give the home team all the momentum.

But then the wheels fell off.

Burnett allowed four runs off four hits and a walk in the eighth, including a 2-run homer by Sean Rodriguez. Already down four runs heading into the ninth, Phil Dumatrait came on for the Twins and made sure there was no doubt about the outcome. He gave up a three-run bomb to Evan Longoria to finish off the scoring for the Rays. The Twins were able to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but Joe Mauer came off the bench and promptly struck out to end the game.

The loss leaves Minnesota with a 38-47 record as they head into their last series before the All-Star Game. The Twins head to Chicago to take on the rival White Sox for a four-game series starting Thursday night. The big news is that the aforementioned Mauer will most likely make his first career start at first base. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM CT.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.