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Twins fall as big lead evaporates late

July 2, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — It had been nearly a month since Matt Capps blew a save. Since that June 8 outing, the Twins’ closer had thrown six straight scoreless innings and converted five saves in a row.

The Brewers finally got the best of Capps on Saturday, though, as they rallied for an 8-7 victory at Target Field.

“That was pretty tough, that was embarrassing,” Capps said.

“It’s not the first tough night I’ve had. [But] it might be the worst night I’ve had that I can remember in my career.”

Called upon to close it out with the Twins leading the Brewers by three runs, Capps gave up three straight singles before getting the next two outs. With two on and two out, all Capps had to do was get Nyjer Morgan out to end the game.

Having played with Morgan for three years, Capps knew just how to pitch the Brewers’ center fielder, too. In fact, he had gotten him out in a similar situation in the past.

In 2009, Capps faced Morgan with two on and two out, as the Pirates held a 5-4 lead on the Nationals. That time, Capps got Morgan to pop out to center field to secure the victory.

This time, Morgan drove a double off the wall in right field, plating two runs to tie the ballgame.

“Go for them seats,” Morgan said of his approach, before fitting in a mention of his alter ego, Tony Plush. “In that situation, with Plush facing one of my former teammates in Matt Capps, I know he’s going to come after me. He [threw] a nice pitch, and I happened to get it with the sweet spot of the bat. I thought I put it in them seats. I should have kept running to third. I was caught in the moment, there. But now I know for next time, I’ll keep running for third.”

Morgan crushed a 94-mph, first-pitch fastball just over the outstretched glove of Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer, completing a 3-for-4 night. Along with the double, Morgan had a two-run homer and a triple, with four RBIs and three runs scored.

“I felt like I had a bead on it,” Cuddyer said. “It felt close.”

Finally, pinch-hitter George Kottaras delivered the knockout punch to Capps, ripping a single to right-center to give the Brewers the lead and Capps his sixth blown save of the season.

Kottaras’ single completed the Brewers’ comeback from a 7-0 deficit in the fourth. The seven-run lead is tied for the fourth-largest blown lead in Minnesota history, and the last time the Twins had blown a seven-run lead was June 10, 2001, against the Pirates, when they led 8-1 and eventually lost 11-8.

“Definitely, the biggest win of the year,” said Ryan Braun, who exited with a left calf strain in the eighth, setting up Kottaras for the go-ahead single. “Considering the way that we have been playing and the way the game was going, down 7-0. We tried to chip away and put ourselves in position to come back and win that game. It’s unbelievable.”

After he kept them guessing last week at Miller Park, the Twins had jumped all over Brewers lefty Chris Narveson early. Alexi Casilla got things started with a single and a run scored in the first inning, but Narveson really struggled in the third and fourth.

With one down, Cuddyer and Danny Valencia hit back-to-back home runs in the third, the first Twins to do so since Sept. 25, 2010, at Detroit. An inning later, Narveson got two quick groundouts before he ran into trouble, as the Twins plated four runs with two out in the fourth.

“We knew what we were facing, we just faced him last week,” Cuddyer said. “Half changeups, half heaters. That at-bat that I hit the home run, I was looking for the changeup. I got it and, fortunately, I didn’t miss it.”

Narveson left after 4 2/3 innings, having given up seven runs on 14 hits with two walks and just one strikeout. The last pitcher to allow that many hits in less than five innings was Mark Buehrle, who gave up 14 hits in 4 1/3 innings on Aug. 2, 2008, at Kansas City.

Twins starter Carl Pavano faced just one over the minimum through four scoreless innings, and gave up four runs (three earned) on eight hits in 7 2/3 innings of work on the night.

“It’s tough. Matty is so solid. It’s just one of those things where it got away,” Pavano said. “Those guys battled back. You have to tip your cap at them.”

After giving up 15 runs on 25 hits earlier in the week to the Dodgers, the Twins looked to be on their way to a similar performance through four innings, with seven runs and 14 hits on the board.

Instead, the Brewers’ bullpen came in and shut them down, tossing 4 1/3 scoreless innings without giving up a hit.

“Very tough loss for us,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Any time you get the ball in your closer’s hand and you lose, it’s really hard. Capps got the ball out and over the plate a few too many times.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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