Twins’ pen picks up for Baker in 3-2 win over Rays

Published 8:48 am Wednesday, July 6, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — The last thing Ron Gardenhire wanted to do was come out to the mound in the ninth inning to yank closer Matt Capps for a second time in a row.

The boos were raining down upon Capps at Target Field, and the Tampa Bay Rays were threatening to steal a game the Minnesota Twins simply couldn’t afford to lose. So it was Glen Perkins to the rescue again.

Perkins got the final out of the ninth to bail out Capps again, helping the Twins hang on for a 3-2 victory over the Rays on Tuesday night.

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“It’s a terrible feeling having to go take him out of the game,” Gardenhire said. “I said that the last time. And it’s not fun for a manager to go take him out. We’re trying to win ballgames. He understands that. He’ll be the first to tell you that.”

Scott Baker (7-5) gave up one unearned run on three hits with three strikeouts for the Twins before leaving after five innings with a mild right elbow strain.

Capps came on in the ninth and gave up a homer to B.J. Upton and a base hit to Casey Kotchman to draw boos from the home crowd. He walked Kelly Shoppach with two outs, forcing Gardenhire’s hand.

Perkins got Johnny Damon to ground out to shortstop to end the game. It was his second save in the last three nights, both coming after Capps couldn’t finish the game.

Capps blew his sixth save of the year on Saturday when Milwaukee scored four runs in the ninth for an 8-7 win. He then was pulled from the game on Sunday after giving up two hits and Perkins came on for the save.

Upton hit Capps’ first pitch deep into the left field seats to make it 3-2, and Kotchman ripped a single to right, eliciting chants of “We want Perkins!” from the impatient crowd.

After nearly walking Sean Rodriguez, Capps recovered by getting him on a lineout to center. Sam Fuld flew out to deep right field, but Capps walked Shoppach before leaving to more boos.

“I don’t blame them,” said Capps, who never ducks the media after a tough outing. “I haven’t been very good. I’d boo me, too.”

Perkins got Damon to ground out to Tsuyoshi Nishioka on a very close play, and the sellout crowd breathed a big sigh of relief.

“When I crossed the bag I was like, ‘Awesome, we’re getting our hottest hitter (Ben Zobrist) up here,” Damon said. “Obviously, as you can see my reaction, I’m stunned.”

Ben Revere had two hits and scored twice, and Michael Cuddyer added two RBIs for the Twins.

James Shields (8-6) gave up three runs — two earned — on six hits with five strikeouts, three walks and two more pickoffs in six innings for the Rays.

Zobrist had a double and two singles for Tampa Bay.

Even though the offense was fairly minimal, the pitching duel that was expected never really materialized. Baker breezed through the first five innings and appeared to be in total control when he went to the dugout on 62 pitches in the middle of the fifth.

“At this point in the season I’m just trying to be smart about it,” Baker said. “I almost didn’t say anything to be honest with you and just continued to pitch with it. But it just was a little more discomfort than I would have liked to continue to pitch with. It’s just a precautionary thing.”

Shields needed 105 pitches to get through six, so manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen to start the seventh.

Shields was in trouble right away, giving up a leadoff single to Revere and a double to Alexi Casilla to give the Twins runners on first and second with nobody out. He struck out Joe Mauer before Revere scored on a groundout by Cuddyer, then ended the inning with a lightning-quick move to pick Casilla off second to escape down just 1-0.