Twins prevail in extra innings

Published 3:36 am Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Minn. forces Detroit to secure playoff berth later

MINNEAPOLIS — For the Minnesota Twins, barreling their way to a third straight 90-loss season, it’s about the little things — like not watching another team celebrate a playoff berth.

They had their noses rubbed in it Sunday in Oakland, where the Athletics beat Minnesota 11-7 to complete a four-game sweep and clinch their second straight AL West title.

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The Twins are trying to avoid the same fate this week at Target Field, where they opened a season-ending homestand against AL Central contenders with a 4-3 victory over Detroit in 11 innings Monday night.

The first-place Tigers could have wrapped up a postseason spot with a win. Their magic number is two for securing the AL Central crown.

“We held them off from celebrating on our field for one more day,” said closer Glen Perkins, who pitched two scoreless innings. “We’d like to see (the Tigers) not celebrate on our field.”

Brian Dozier tied the score at 3 with a leadoff homer in the ninth, his team-high 18th, and scored the winning run in the 11th on a single by rookie Josmil Pinto. Minnesota snapped a four-game skid and bounced back from a 1-6 road trip through Chicago and Oakland.

It was an unlikely comeback. Starting a lineup with six players who spent most of the season in the minors, the Twins looked overmatched against Justin Verlander, who struck out eight in the first three innings and left with a 1-0 lead after six.

He gave up six hits and walked three but fanned 12, holding the Twins hitless (0 for 9) with runners in scoring position.

“I thought he was going to set records,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.

The Twins had just been outclassed in Oakland, where they lost all four games by a combined score of 31-14.

“We got outpitched, outhit, outplayed,” Perkins said. “There was nothing good about that series.”

But the Twins roughed up Detroit’s best relief pitchers with six hits, two walks and three runs combined against Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras and Joaquin Benoit, who was charged with his first blown save of the year after giving up Dozier’s home run into the bullpen in left-center.

“I got ahead first pitch and he came back with a fastball. I put a good swing on it,” said Dozier, who was 0 for 3 with three called strikeouts against Verlander.

Dozier started the 11th with a sharp single off Luke Putkonen (1-2) and moved to second when Josh Willingham struck out on a wild pitch. Pinto followed with a hard single to right field, where strong-armed Torii Hunter was playing shallow.

“I knew that as good as Torii throws, it was going to be close, and as hard as Pinto hit it, it was going to be even closer,” Dozier said. “But he sailed it up a little bit. Right when I saw it leave his hand I knew it was going to be up because as strong an arm as he has, if he doesn’t keep the ball low, it’s going to ride on him.”

The Twins finish the season with two more games against Detroit and four against Cleveland, which is 4 1/2 games behind the Tigers but leads the race for the second AL wild card.

Gardenhire moved within two wins of 1,000 for his career, all with the Twins since becoming their manager before the 2002 season.

“We’d like to win for Gardy,” Perkins said. “He needs two more.”

NOTES: Twins starter Mike Pelfrey gave up one run on six hits and three walks in six innings. Completing a full season after Tommy John surgery, he said his arm is a little tired and he likely won’t make another start this season. … Twins LF Oswaldo Arcia was scratched after bruising his right knee on the outfield wall while chasing a fly ball in batting practice. … The Twins’ 17 strikeouts gave them 60 games with at least 10 this season. The previous team record was 26 in 2001. … Minnesota entered leading the AL with 171 double plays and then turned two more against the Tigers.


Twins shut Mauer down for remainder of the season 

The Minnesota Twins are playing it safe with All-Star catcher Joe Mauer after having seen up close the damage concussions can do to a player.

The Twins shut Mauer down for the rest of the season on Monday, saying it wasn’t worth the risk to try to get him back on the field with the team far out of contention and Mauer still experiencing some symptoms of a concussion he sustained on Aug. 19.

The Twins have seven games left in what has been another miserable season for them, and Mauer’s injury only adds to the disappointment. He was hurt when he took a foul ball off his mask against the New York Mets and hasn’t played since. Mauer said he has seen big improvement over the last week, but there are still some lingering symptoms, including sensitivity to light, that tell him it’s not worth risking a setback by trying to get back for the final seven games of the season.

“It’s frustrating that I’m not on the field and not able to play the game that I love,” Mauer said after a workout at Target Field. “But I have to take care of this and make sure that I’m healthy and ready to go next year.”

One of Mauer’s close friends, Justin Morneau, saw a series of concussions derail his All-Star career a few years ago. Former center fielder Denard Span also struggled with them at one point, so the Twins have become particularly informed on treating players with the brain injury. The last thing they want is for Mauer, the face of the franchise who will make $23 million a year for the next five seasons, to experience similar difficulties.

General manager Terry Ryan said Mauer hasn’t experienced any setbacks and that the organization was just being extra cautious with its franchise player.

“As we all know, those things are very touchy and sensitive,” Ryan said. “We’ve gone through this with Justin once before. I just don’t want any setbacks and neither does he and neither does our medical staff.”

Mauer said he’s spoken with Morneau, who was traded to the Pittsburgh a few weeks ago. But he’s also quick to point out that he believes he’s on the right track to a full recovery and plans on being ready for spring training in February.

“He’s checking in on me and seeing how I’m doing,” Mauer said. “I just want to make sure everybody knows I’ve had some good days in a row and I shouldn’t have any problems lingering. I’m just going to try to keep getting better.”

Mauer was still struggling with considerable symptoms on the team’s previous homestand. But he said he has made significant progress in the last week while the team was away on a West Coast road trip. He went through another workout before the Twins opened a series against the Detroit Tigers on Monday, but rather than have the issue hanging over the final seven games of the season, the Twins decided to bring some finality to the situation.

The injury has reintroduced talk about moving Mauer from catcher to first base to reduce the wear and tear on his body. Over the past two years, the Twins have tried to keep Mauer’s bat in the lineup as much as possible by having him play more at first base and as the designated hitter. Mauer hit .324 this season, which was good for third in the AL when the day began.

Mauer is determined to remain behind the plate and Ryan said he anticipated that Mauer would continue to catch next season, but it’s an issue that will be discussed this winter.

“I have every intention of coming back and catching. That’s what I do,” Mauer said. “But right now I have to take care of the situation so I can. I look forward to getting back out on the field next year as a catcher and whatever else they need me to do.”