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Baseball: Late-inning stall derails Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Target Field was still covered in sunshine Sunday afternoon when Jim Thome emerged from the shadows, hopping out of the Minnesota Twins dugout to pinch hit in the seventh inning.

Ron Gardenhire
Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire argues with first base umpire Mike Reilly after Reilly made a strike three call on the Twins' Michael Cuddyer during the ninth inning Sunday in Minneapolis. Tom Olmscheid / Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Target Field was still covered in sunshine Sunday afternoon when Jim Thome emerged from the shadows, hopping out of the Minnesota Twins dugout to pinch hit in the seventh inning.

With two outs, the bases loaded, and Kansas City clinging to a two-run lead, a sellout crowd came to its feet, sending a roar through downtown Minneapolis.

One of Thome's 566 career home runs had come against Rupe -- on July 11, 2008 -- and this time, they staged a terrific seven-pitch battle.

The fans never sat down, oohing and ahhing as Thome took five mighty swings. He fouled off three pitches before Rupe finally struck him out with a 94 mph fastball.

"We still had a chance in that game, which is kind of amazing," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after his team's 10-5 loss. "We probably didn't deserve a chance the way we played."

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This has been a theme for the Twins. They've won their first four series for the first time in team history, losing once in each series. In each loss, they've brought the potential tying or winning run to the plate in the late innings.

The Twins took this to an extreme Sunday, as they missed a chance to sweep the Royals, who stunned them with a pair of three-run homers from second baseman Alberto Callaspo.

Carl Pavano (2-1) gave up six runs in the third inning, including the first of Callaspo's two blasts, digging the Twins a 6-2 hole. But the Twins didn't seem out of it until Callaspo struck again in the ninth inning of Jesse Crain.

The Twins left 11 runners on base and went 0-for-4 with the bases loaded, including Justin Morneau's strikeout against Luke Hochevar (2-0) in the fourth. As a team, the Twins are now 3-for-19 (.158) with the bases loaded.

"I think with the team we have, we're always going to have a chance," right fielder Michael Cuddyer said. "We didn't play our best baseball today, by any means, but that's the sign of a good team."

Pavano blamed himself. The Twins scored two runs in the first inning, and trimmed Kansas City's lead to 6-3 in the third before the Royals added another run against Pavano in the fourth.

"I put these guys behind the 8-ball," Pavano said. "They got me two runs. From the beginning, I was kind of all over the place."

Gardenhire sent Thome to pinch hit for No. 9 hitter Brendan Harris after the Twins had scored two runs in the seventh, making it 7-5. Rupe had just walked J.J. Hardy on four pitches to reload the bases.

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"He made some good pitches," Thome said. "Coming off the bench, you want to be ready to swing. I had some opportunities. I fouled some balls off, and pinch hitting, you can't do that. You've gotta put the ball in play, and he made a real nice pitch."

Rupe said he decided to grab the ball with two seams and aim high and away "to see who wins."

"Today, I got the better of him," Rupe said. "But he's gotten the better of me before. So it's not over."

So far, with these Twins, it never is.

Kansas City Minnesota

ab r h bi ab r h bi

DeJess rf 4 1 1 0 Span cf 5 1 2 0

Pdsdnk lf 5 1 3 2 OHudsn 2b 2 2 0 0

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Maier lf 0 0 0 0 Mauer c 4 1 3 0

BButler 1b 5 1 3 1 Mornea 1b 3 1 0 1

JGuilln dh 5 1 3 1 Cuddyr rf 3 0 1 1

Blmqst pr-dh 0 1 0 0 Kubel dh 5 0 1 2

Ankiel cf 4 1 0 0 DlmYn lf 5 0 0 1

Callasp 2b 5 2 3 6 Hardy ss 3 0 0 0

Kendall c 5 0 1 0 BHarrs 3b 3 0 1 0

Gordon 3b 4 1 1 0 Thome ph 1 0 0 0

YBtncr ss 4 1 1 0 Casilla 3b 0 0 0 0

Totals 41 10 16 10 Totals 34 5 8 5

Kansas City 006 100 003--10

Minnesota 201 000 200--5

E--Y.Betancourt (1), Gordon (1). DP--Kansas City 2. LOB--Kansas City 6, Minnesota 11. 2B--DeJesus (5), B.Butler 2 (3), Span (4). HR--Callaspo 2 (3). SB--Podsednik (7), J.Guillen (1), Bloomquist (2), Kendall (1). S--DeJesus. SF--Cuddyer.

IP H R ER BB SO

Kansas City

Hochevar W,2-0 6 6 3 2 5 4

D.Hughes 0.1 0 2 1 2 0

Rupe H,1 1.1 2 0 0 1 1

Soria S,3-4 1.1 0 0 0 0 2

Minnesota

Pavano L,2-1 3.1 11 7 7 0 2

Al.Burnett 2.2 2 0 0 0 4

Mahay 2 1 0 0 0 3

Crain 1 2 3 3 1 0

WP--Mahay.

Umpires--Home, Chad Fairchild; First, Mike Reilly; Second, Eric Cooper; Third, Bill Miller.

T--3:10. A--38,544 (39,504).

Related Topics: BASEBALL
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