Jones takes loss in Twins' walk-off
05/06/2006 11:29 PM ET
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- They weren't going to be perfect forever. It just hurts them when they prove they're still mortal.Detroit's bullpen entered Saturday 11-for-11 in save opportunities. Not only were the Tigers unbeaten when leading after eight innings, they were perfect when ahead through six or seven innings, too. When three relievers shut down the Twins for a victory Friday night, manager Jim Leyland called it their biggest win of the year, because it's the type of game the Twins often pull out at the Metrodome.
So on Saturday, Minnesota pulled it out. Shannon Stewart tripled in the tying run and Luis Castillo singled in the deciding one in the ninth inning for a 7-6 Detroit defeat.
"They've done a whale of a job," Leyland said. "This is one of those gut checkers. We'll find out how we respond. The guys fought hard tonight. We just didn't close out the deal tonight, but that happens. They've been fantastic, so this is another little hurdle we'll have to climb. This is a tough loss, but you're going to have these. That's just the way it is."
Considering how well Detroit's bullpen had performed to this point, nobody was going to heap blame on the relievers -- except Jones, who blamed himself for not going 7-for-7 in save chances. The way starter Jeremy Bonderman saw it, it was a game they could've easily lost in the fourth inning, not the ninth.
RBI hits from Brandon Inge and Ivan Rodriguez pull the Tigers ahead in a two-run seventh, allowing the bullpen to try to finish it out. The Twins put the potential tying run in scoring position in the bottom of the inning when Joe Mauer doubled in Castillo with two outs off Jamie Walker. Joel Zumaya stranded him there by striking out Torii Hunter for the second straight night, this time fanning him on a high fastball at 99 mph, then retired the side in order in the eighth.
That brought on Jones, whose one-out walk to pinch-hitter Luis Rodriguez began the unraveling.
"I'm just glad it happened to me, to be honest with you," Jones said, "because I know how to handle it. I can bounce back. It's not like I've never blown a save before. This is kind of where I rely on my experience and realize that if you don't make good pitches, you get beat. And if you make good pitches, you get 'em out.
"I didn't make good pitches tonight. That doesn't mean I won't make them tomorrow or next time out."
Jones tried to go after Stewart with fastballs and cutters, but when he lost one in the dirt for a wild pitch, he lost the chance for a double play. He said that had no effect on his approach to pitch inside to Stewart, who hit an opposite-field triple off the right-field baggie. That sealed just the sixth blown save for Jones in 52 save opportunities dating back to last season.
Not only was the save blown, in this instance, but Jones had to deal with the winning run on third base with one out and a batter known for putting the ball. Jones missed with his next two pitches, but with Mauer on deck, he didn't want to pitch around Castillo. Instead, he pitched cutters trying to get a ground ball.
He got it, but Castillo hit it hard enough to put it past Carlos Guillen, who had been running around all night tracking down balls.
In taking the responsibility Saturday, Jones was trying to set an example. But he also wanted to make sure the rest of the bullpen got its credit.
"They're still good," Jones said. "Joel's still dominant. Fernando [Rodney's] dominant. I've been hit around here or there, but I'm trying to get things right. The bullpen, this is our living. This is what we chose. We take the good with the bad and you stand up and face the music when you pitch bad."
Jones wasn't going to get any blame from Bonderman, who dealt with control problems of his own. The 23-year-old right-hander gave up four runs in his first four innings and was nearly out before then, with Jordan Tata warming up. Instead, an adjustment helped him keep the ball down and turned what was nearly a quick exit into 6 2/3 innings with help from three double plays.
"It was one of those days I was just battling," said Bonderman, who remained unbeaten versus the Twins since going 0-4 against them in 2003. "I didn't have great stuff, but these guys scored a lot of runs for us and gave me an opportunity to keep our team in it. I did the best I could with what I had today."
Again, the Tigers used Magglio Ordonez and a timely offensive attack to support a starter through a shaky outing. Ordonez, who went 3-for-6 against Minnesota starter Scott Baker last season, singled and scored on a hit-and-run play in the second inning before driving a hanging breaking ball 415 feet into left field for a home run leading off the fourth. Curtis Granderson's two-run homer in the fifth pulled the Tigers back to even.
Once Baker left after six innings, the Tigers pounced on Twins phenom Francisco Liriano. Dmitri Young greeted him with a leadoff double off the baggie in right before scoring two batters later, when Inge slapped a hard grounder through the left side. Rodriguez followed with a line drive that skirted away from Stewart in left field. Inge broke for the plate and scored without a throw.
That nearly gave the Tigers their second straight win when giving up at least five runs, something they had done once all season before that. To do it twice at a place known for late-inning magic was asking too much.
"It's just one of those games," Bonderman said. "I deserved to lose that game. Most any other day, I lose that game. These guys kept us in it. It's a tough loss."