Willingham’s hit streak ends; bullpen strong

Minnesota Twins left fielder Josh Willingham took a 15-game hitting streak into Sunday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays. But that streak came to an end Sunday as Willingham went 0-for-2 with a walk in Minnesota’s 6-2 loss.

The 15-game streak tied him with Kirby Puckett for the longest hitting streak by a Twin to start the season. Puckett accomplished the feat in 1994. But Willingham did set a new mark for longest hitting streak by a player to start his career with Minnesota. Willingham was signed to a three-year deal in the offseason after playing for Oakland last year. He recorded hits in his first 15 games in a Twins uniform.

Yet while as impressive as Willingham’s streak was, his last seven games prior to Sunday were all just one-hit performances. His last multi-hit game was back on April 14 when he had two hits against Texas. He’s had just three multi-hit games during the streak; he had two hits April 9 against the Angels and three hits — including a home run — three days later in the series finale with Los Angeles.

Willingham’s hitting streak almost didn’t survive past Saturday. He needed a ninth-inning single to keep it alive at 15 games.

Willingham did reach base twice Sunday, however. He drew a walk and was also hit by a pitch from Rays starter Jeff Niemann. That means he’s gotten on base at least once in each of his first 16 games with the Twins.

Bullpen does its part in series versus Rays

While Minnesota continues to search from consistency from its starting rotation, the Twins’ bullpen pulled its weight in the three-game series against Tampa Bay this weekend.

In 8 1/3 innings over three games, Minnesota’s bullpen allowed just one earned run. That came Sunday when left-hander Glen Perkins gave up a run on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning of the Twins’ 6-2 loss.

Minnesota used four relievers for a combined 3 1/3 scoreless innings in Friday’s series opener. Matt Maloney, Jared Burton and Matt Capps each pitched a scores — and hitless — inning, while left-hander Brian Duensing recorded a strikeout in his 1/3 of an inning of work.

Saturday, the Twins used Alex Burnett, Duensing and Jeff Gray for two innings. Burnett allowed an unearned run, but the trio combined to allow just one hit and two walks in two innings. Burnett has yet to allow an earned run this season in 8 2/3 innings of work.

Oliva honored in Tampa

Former Twins outfielder Tony Oliva was honored Saturday in Tampa Bay during the Twins’ series with the Rays this weekend. Oliva, 73, was inducted into the Hitters Hall of Fame at the Ted Williams Museum, which is located at Tropicana Field.

Oliva won the Rookie of the Year award in 1964 and played his entire 15-year career with Minnesota. He finished his career in 1976 with a career batting average of .304. He also hit 220 home runs, drove in 947 runs and hit 329 doubles. Oliva was named to eight All-Star teams during his career and won three batting titles — including his rookie season, when he hit .323.

Oliva also threw out the first pitch at Sunday’s game and was recognized during an on-field celebration before the game.

Colabello is Minor League Player of the Week

Infielder Chris Colabello, currently playing for Double-A New Britain, was named the Twins’ Minor League Player of the Week for the week of April 14-20. In six games this past week, Colabello was 8-for-21 (.381), including three home runs and eight RBI.

Colabello, 28, is in his first season in the Twins organization. He previously spent seven seasons in the Independent League prior to signing with Minnesota. He batted .317 with 86 home runs and 420 RBI in seven season in the Independent League.

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