Plouffe misses opportunity to rally Twins

Published 9:15 am Thursday, May 1, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — Trevor Plouffe had a chance to rally the Twins late in the game. Minnesota’s top hitter just missed a pitch and the Twins suffered another frustrating loss.

Zack Greinke pitched six strong innings and reliever Chris Withrow retired Plouffe to get out of a seventh-inning jam as the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Twins 6-4 on Wednesday night.

Greinke (5-0) struck out six and didn’t allow an earned run, but he loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh and the Twins trailing 5-1. Withrow came on and went 3-0 on Plouffe before throwing a strike. Plouffe, who leads the team in average and is tied for second in RBIs, then skied a pop fly to shortstop Hanley Ramirez to end the inning.

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“We were excited about that situation. He’s a great fastball hitter,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That’s his situation, that’s what he needs to do for us. I’m glad that he was willing to take that rip.”

Plouffe atoned for the popup by doubling home two runs with two outs in the ninth, but Kenley Jansen got Chris Colabello to ground out to earn his 10th save in 12 chances.

Kyle Gibson (3-2) allowed five runs in 6 2-3 innings and lost his second consecutive start after beginning the season 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA. He was victimized by RBI bloop singles from Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez in the second, and his bullpen let him down when Michael Tonkin gave up a first-pitch double to Juan Uribe in the seventh that knocked home two runners he inherited from Gibson.

But Gibson was more upset by the three free passes he issued, especially a two-out walk to Yasiel Puig in the third inning that set the stage for the RBI singles by Ramirez and Gonzalez.

“Three walks are going to drive me crazy if I keep doing that by the end of the season, but walking Puig there in the third inning ended up costing me a couple of runs,” Gibson said. “It’s frustrating having those walks. Luckily I’ve been able to work through them for the most part this season but they caught up to me today.”

Eduardo Escobar had a career-high four hits and two RBIs for the Twins.

The game was played through drizzling rain and temperatures that dipped into the 30s by the end of the game. It rained most of the day on Wednesday and a tarp covered the pitcher’s mound and batter’s box at Target Field 15 minutes before first pitch.

Greinke wasn’t fazed, and won his 12th game in 17 starts since Aug. 5. The right-hander has pitched at least five innings and allowed two runs or fewer in 18 consecutive regular season starts.

With Minnesota up 1-0, Drew Butera slid headfirst and touched home just ahead of Kurt Suzuki’s tag after Ramirez singled to left in the third.

Gardenhire challenged the safe call by home plate umpire Chris Segal, but lost after the call was confirmed following a 2-minute replay review.

Minnesota advanced a runner at least to second base six times against Greinke, but couldn’t break through beyond Escobar’s RBI double in the second.

Twins second baseman Brian Dozier did his best to help Gibson. When Gonzalez’s grounder to first took a bad hop and ricocheted of Joe Mauer’s shoulder, Dozier hustled over, dove, and scooped the ball to Gibson with his glove for the out.

Tuesday’s series opener was postponed due to wintry weather and the two teams are scheduled to play a doubleheader on Thursday.

NOTES: Mike Pelfrey (0-2, 7.32) will start the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader for Minnesota and Kris Johnson will make his major league debut in the nightcap. … The Dodgers earned their 10,000th win in franchise history. . The Target Field scoreboard displayed the score of Game 7 between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche in the NHL playoffs.