MINNEAPOLIS — With a loss Monday to Boston, the Minnesota Twins are now 5-12 on the season. Believe it or not, though, there have been plenty of opportunities to add to the win total.
Perhaps no opportunity was greater than Monday’s series opener against the Red Sox, which the Twins dropped by a 6-5 final at Target Field. Minnesota had the go-ahead run 90 feet away with no outs in the eighth inning, but Jamey Carroll was stranded on third base. One inning later, Cody Ross hit his second home run of the game to put Boston ahead for good.
“(We) left a couple of men out there, had chances to get (the lead) again, couldn’t come up with the big hit,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve been doing a little too much of that.”
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Indeed, Minnesota has lacked that clutch hit in late-game situations and Monday was no exception. After Carroll reached third with a leadoff single and a two-base error on right fielder Ryan Sweeney, the Twins couldn’t get the ball out of the infield.
Joe Mauer grounded out to first base, which forced Carroll to stay at third. Josh Willingham then lined out to third base for the second out. After Justin Morneau was intentionally walked, Ryan Doumit popped out to shortstop Mike Aviles to end the inning and leave Carroll stranded.
“It seems like we’re always one big hit away,” Doumit said. “I know that I had an opportunity today with Carroll on third there in the eighth. We had a couple opportunities. We just didn’t get it done.”
As a team, the Twins were just 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position (RISP) in Monday’s loss. On the season, Minnesota is batting just .237 (33-for-139) with RISP.
“We put ourselves in good situations and have opportunities, but lately we haven’t really been coming through,” said second baseman Trevor Plouffe. “Teams that win games, they hit in those situations.”
It appeared as if the Twins finally got that big hit, that game-changer, when Plouffe hit a deep fly ball to left-center field in the top of the ninth. Pinch runner Clete Thomas was on first base when Plouffe got ahold of a fastball from Alfredo Aceves.
But Plouffe’s shot to left died on the warning track for the second out of the inning. One batter later, the game was over. Another opportunity was squandered.
Fans at Target Field thought Plouffe got all of it, as they rose to their feet upon contact. Gardenhire thought he was out. So did Plouffe’s teammates.
“I think everybody did,” Doumit said. “It looked good off his bat. This is a pretty tough park, especially in the alleys, but what can you do?”
Again, like they did when they stranded Carroll at third base with nobody out, the Twins fell short when they had a chance to make the big play.
“I knew I got it up in the air, and I was wishing it over the fence. But I definitely didn’t think I absolutely got it,” Plouffe said. “It was one of those ones where it was going to be just barely over the fence, or he was going to catch it.”
After falling behind 3-0 in the second inning, Minnesota rallied to go ahead 5-3. Two innings later, Boston’s Cody Ross tied the game at 5-5 with the first of his two homers in the game. And it came off Twins starter Jason Marquis, who was solid through six innings but was shaky in the seventh.
Marquis was bailed out by a highlight reel double play turned by Carroll, Plouffe and Morneau to end the sixth inning. David Ortiz hit a grounder up the middle that Carroll dove to stop. He then flipped to Plouffe, who relayed to Morneau to get the double play.
Even in a game where Minnesota rallied with offense and made key plays with defense, it still left opportunities on the field. As a result, the Twins picked up their 12th loss of the season.
Given the chances the Twins couldn’t capitalize on, Monday’s loss stung a little bit more.
“We wanted this one pretty bad,” Plouffe said. “But we’ve had a few of these games now under our belt where we’ve been close. Some we’ve won and some we haven’t, and we’re looking forward to winning more of them. We’re right there.”