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Twins miss on chance to end their skid

September 20, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — With the heart of their order due up and the bases loaded in the ninth, all the Twins needed was a ball into the outfield to tie the game and a base hit for the potential winning run. Instead, they got a strikeout and a pair of groundouts to end the game.

With that, the Twins sustained a 5-4 loss to the Mariners in the series opener at Target Field. It was Minnesota’s 10th straight loss, its first such streak since Sept. 9-19, 1998.

Minnesota has lost nine or more in a row twice this season, while also posting six different losing streaks of six or more games.

“It’s tough. I’ll take that one tonight because I didn’t come through,” said Twins right fielder Michael Cuddyer. “I get up in that situation, and like I said, you can’t strike out.”

After singles by Rene Tosoni and Ben Revere, a throwing error by closer Brandon League on Trevor Plouffe’s sacrifice bunt loaded the bases. Cuddyer took the first shot at League, striking out on four pitches.

Cuddyer drove a foul ball down the right-field line that may have scored Tosoni, but it dropped in front of Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki and Cuddyer swung through the next pitch for strike three.

“Yeah, he definitely let it drop. No question,” Cuddyer said. “It’s gutsy. It hit the wall or short-hopped the wall, I can’t remember exactly, but he made a better play on the one in the first inning. But it’s his call, and he obviously made the right one.”

Following Cuddyer were Chris Parmelee and Danny Valencia, both of whom grounded out, with the Mariners getting the force at home on Parmelee’s at-bat.

Starter Liam Hendriks will have to wait at least one more start to try to secure his first Major League win. But considering how Tuesday night started, things could have gone a lot worse for Hendriks and the Twins.

Hendriks opened his third career start by surrendering extra-base hits to three of the first four hitters he faced, with the only out being a warning-track fly ball. He managed to give up just two runs in the frame, but was hit hard throughout the game.

Ichiro started the game with a triple and scored on Kyle Seager’s double one batter later. Seager then scored on Mike Carp’s double to give the Mariners an early lead.

“I was falling forward and overthrowing my pitches and dropping my head a lot,” Hendriks said. “They jumped all over us. Within three pitches I think I was down a run. But a credit to their team, they came out swinging and it scored them a couple runs early.”

Hendriks held the Mariners scoreless over the next four innings, but his night ended after a double and two-run, game-tying homer by Alex Liddi with one out in the sixth. Over 5 1/3 innings, Hendriks gave up four runs on 10 hits with five strikeouts.

“Liam made the one bad pitch there at the end. That was probably the last hitter he was going to face,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “He hung a slider and tied the ballgame up.”

Minnesota quickly answered in the bottom of the first, tying the game with a pair of runs. Revere singled and stole second, while Plouffe and Parmelee each doubled. The Twins added runs in the fourth and fifth to take a short-lived 4-3 lead.

Despite not having his best stuff, Mariners starter Jason Vargas got the win as he went six innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on nine hits. Vargas also had two walks and four strikeouts.

“I didn’t really have one,” Vargas said of his scouting report on the young Twins lineup. “That can be good or bad. More than likely, you get a bunch of young guys playing, they’re going to swing the bats. So, I thought maybe that played a little part into it, but it was just a struggle tonight.”

Left-hander Brian Duensing relieved Hendriks, and an ugly play on a soft grounder between the mound and first plated the go-ahead run for the Mariners. Duensing was unable to cleanly field the ball, allowing Adam Kennedy to reach first and Seager to score from third. A poor flip by Duensing was not in time, and got away from Parmelee at first base.

With their 94th loss of the season, the Twins have to win four of their last nine games to avoid losing 100 games for just the second time since the club moved to Minnesota, and the first time since posting a 60-102 record in 1982.

“You definitely don’t want 100 losses,” Cuddyer said. “Anybody who has pride doesn’t want 100 losses. You don’t want 99 losses either. So, you have to go out and play, and play hard and play to win. We put ourselves in position tonight, but we didn’t come through.”

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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