MINNEAPOLIS -- With the Astros losing by seven before Ervin Santana threw the first pitch of Wednesday night's eventual 7-4 loss in 12 innings, the Twins looked like they had a prime opportunity to move just a half-game out of the second American League Wild Card spot. By the seventh inning, after the Astros had already lost and the Twins regained the lead against Detroit, it looked close to assured.
In the ninth inning, after Kevin Jepsen blew his first save since joining the Twins at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Twins tied it up. With runners on the corners and just one out, the promise of a victory came back into focus. After that rally fizzled, the Twins again had a victory within their sites with two on, no outs and Joe Mauer looking at a 3-0 count in the 10th.
But the Twins fell just short of the one big hit they needed, seeing a potentially huge victory vanish from their grasp. They remain 1 1/2 games back of the second Wild Card.
"There [were] multiple opportunities to win," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
Perhaps the most glaring was the ninth inning, which seemed doomed from the start for the Twins. Victor Martinez leading off the inning hit a ball to Jepsen, who fired a low throw that first baseman Mauer was unable to scoop.
The next batter, Tyler Collins, followed with a single and center fielder Aaron Hicks threw to third instead of hitting the cutoff man. The lapse gave the Tigers runners on second and third with no outs, and Jefry Marte responded with a two-run single.
"Jepsen finally had a night where it kind of started auspiciously with the swinging bunt. He probably had a little more time than he thought he did," Molitor said. "We were able to come back and get back to even and then had a lot of baserunners from that point forward, but we couldn't push anything across. It's disappointing. You're going to have those kinds of losses. They're kind of magnified with where we're at."
With the victory seemingly in hand, it's a loss that stings. But it's also one the Twins must bounce back from with the Angels -- the team immediately trailing them in the Wild Card standings by two games -- coming to town for four games.
"It was a tough, long game today, but at the same time, we have to keep our mind positive and just come tomorrow and just play baseball," Santana said. "Try to do the little things. Don't try to do too much."
Not doing the little things bit the Twins on Wednesday and all rolled together made a tough loss -- one that at many points looked destined to be a victory.
"[We're] still in a relatively competitive position," Molitor said. "I don't know if we lost any ground or not -- I try not to watch that stuff -- but we have enough games to still try to accomplish what we're trying to do here."
Betsy Helfand is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.