Bullpen succumbs in back-and-forth affair

Hughes strong through seven before Halos mount comeback

Bullpen succumbs in back-and-forth affair

MINNEAPOLIS -- For all the struggles the Twins have gone through this season, their bullpen has been mostly solid and hasn't been an issue throughout most of the year.

But the bullpen struggled for a third straight night against the Angels, as Jared Burton gave up a go-ahead two-run double to Albert Pujols in the ninth inning to hand the Twins an 8-5 loss on Saturday night at Target Field. Minnesota has now given up a combined 10 runs in the eighth inning or later in its three straight losses to Los Angeles.

It spoiled another strong start from right-hander Phil Hughes, who went seven innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts but was stuck with a no-decision. It marked his sixth straight start of at least seven innings, and he has a 2.05 ERA over that span. He's also registered quality starts in seven of his last eight outings.

"It's always tough," Hughes said. "You look for three facets with a good start, the bullpen to step up and to score a few runs. Unfortunately for us, it seems like the last few games one or two of those things haven't been there for us. But our bullpen has been great for us all year."

The Twins had a two-run lead in the eighth only to give up two runs that inning before Burton surrendered a two-run double to Pujols with two outs in the ninth. It was the second straight night Burton gave up the game-winning run and marked career hit No. 2,500 for Pujols. Howie Kendrick added an RBI single off reliever Anthony Swarzak for an insurance run.

"It was pretty special," Pujols said. "I thought about it when I came to bat. I was like, 'Man, it'd be nice to get it here.' It's pretty special that I was able to help the team win."

The Angels tied it in the eighth, as right-hander Casey Fien gave up a leadoff single to Pujols before serving up a triple off the wall to Kendrick. Erick Aybar followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to tie the game.

"It happened really quick out there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It was boom, boom, boom. He left a couple pitches up and they squared them up."

The Angels scored early against Hughes, notching a run in each of the first three innings. Kendrick brought in the first run with an RBI double in the first inning.

C.J. Cron plated the second run on a two-out single in the second to score David Freese, who opened the frame with a double. Pujols connected on a solo shot in the third inning to give the Angels their third run, but it was all they could muster against Hughes, who threw 103 pitches and told the coaching staff he was done after seven innings.

"I made a lot of mistakes early but fortunately I was able to make some good pitches to get out of a couple innings that could've been a lot of worse," Hughes said. "I was able to make some adjustments in-game."

Angels right-hander Cory Rasmus lasted just 1 2/3 innings, giving up two runs on two hits and three walks, which allowed the Twins to get back into the game.

Eduardo Escobar opened the scoring for the Twins with a game-tying two-run homer in the second off Rasmus. It was the fifth homer of the year for Escobar and his first since Aug. 22.

Minnesota tied it again in the third on a solo blast from Chris Parmelee, who replaced Danny Santana in the second inning after he left with a lower back strain. Parmelee's homer came off left-hander Michael Roth.

Aaron Hicks gave the Twins their first lead of the night on a two-run single off Roth with two outs in the fourth. Escobar helped spark the rally with a two-out double after Kurt Suzuki singled.

But the Twins couldn't score after that despite putting two runners on in the ninth against closer Huston Street for a third straight night. Street, who blew the save on Friday, got Brian Dozier to ground into a game-ending double play on a check swing that was upheld after a replay review.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.