PHOENIX (AP) — The Minnesota Twins fell just short in a rally that would have been so appropriate to honor Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.
At the end of a day that began with their attendance of Killebrew’s funeral in suburban north Phoenix, the Twins scored three times in the ninth inning and had the bases loaded with one out before falling 8-7 to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.
Manager Ron Gardenhire, a pall bearer at the funeral, said the team tried to just play baseball.
“Once the game gets going you turn it around,” he said. “You focus on what you have at hand. That is what we tried to do.”
Ryan Roberts doubled in three runs for the Diamondbacks in their fourth win in a row and sixth in seven games.
The Twins scored three times in the ninth and had the bases loaded with one out before rookie left-hander Joe Paterson came on to strike out Jason Kubel and get Justin Morneau to ground out for a save in his first career opportunity.
“I was just trying to get something up to hit in the outfield but that ball kind of stayed down and fooled me, too,” Kubel said. “You still want to win but it was a good sign to keep going along and make it interesting and make it close. The guys really beared down at the end, except for myself, and almost made it happen.”
The near-miss capped an emotional day for the Twins, who had Killebrew’s jersey hanging in their dugout. The crowd was sprinkled with posters honoring the Minnesota slugger and an in-game tribute brought a standing ovation.
Roberts’ bases-clearing shot to left-center off reliever Glen Perkins highlighted a five-run seventh that erased Minnesota’s 2-1 lead. Twins starter Brian Duensing (2-4) faced four batters in the inning without getting an out.
Roberts also made one of a handful of standout defensive plays for the Diamondbacks, a diving stop to his right at third base. He threw from foul territory and first baseman Xavier Nady scooped up the throw for the out.
“We’ve been playing really good defense,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “When you look at a game, you tend to look at just the hitting part of it and the pitching part of it but we took care of the ball very well tonight, and Minnesota, give them credit, they didn’t give in.”
Ian Kennedy (5-1) went 7 2-3 innings to get the victory. Paterson has not allowed a run in the first 19 appearances of his major league career, a franchise record.
Michael Cuddyer, Trevor Plouffe and Danny Valencia hit solo home runs for the Twins. Valencia’s shot came in the ninth off Juan Gutierrez to cut the lead to 8-5. David Hernandez relieved Gutierrez and gave up an RBI double to Drew Butera, then walked three in a row, the last with the bases loaded to make it 8-7.
That brought in Paterson to face two lefties, Kubel and Morneau. Kubel was called out looking. Second baseman Kelly Johnson chased down Morneau’s grounder, then threw to Paterson covering first for the final out.
Stephen Drew’s home run tied it at 2 leading off the seventh, then Chris Young doubled and scored on Nady’s single to put Arizona up for good 3-2 after Duensing cruised through six. Arizona went on to load the bases for Roberts, who doubled to make it 6-2.
Each team scored twice in the eighth, giving Arizona its four-run cushion going into the ninth.
Johnson, who has been in a season-long slump, singled, doubled and drove in two runs.
At least, Duensing said, the offense is coming around for Minnesota.
“We put up enough runs to win today. It is good to see them stick with it, especially in the last inning,” he said. “I think our hitting is starting to click so I think it’s up to our pitchers to keep things in check.”
NOTES: The Twins and Diamondbacks had not met since 2005. … Willie Bloomquist started in LF for Arizona, the first time he has played since going on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring April 22, and made a leaping grab to rob Denard Span of an extra-base hit in the third. … Cuddyer, Morneau and reliever Joe Nathan also were pall bearers at Killebrew’s funeral.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)