By Mike Berardino/Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.
Growing up in Naugatuck, Conn., Twins left-hander Pat Dean gave himself over early in life to the power of the pinstripes.
“I’m from the southern part of Connecticut, a little closer to New York (than Boston),” Dean said in the days leading up to Friday night’s 8-2 loss to the New York Yankees. “It’s kind of split in my town. I grew up a Yankee fan.”
Last time out, Dean pitched against the Boston Red Sox, the team the other half of Naugatuck was raised to love.
“One of my earliest memories of going to a Yankee game was a Yankee-Red Sox game,” Dean said. “It’s really cool seeing that rivalry, and now I’ve had a chance to pitch against the Red Sox and my next start is against the Yankees. That’s not a bad spot to be in for me.”
Now 26, Dean may have put those childhood memories aside and for all with a 30-pitch, four-run nightmare in the first inning that followed a 35-minute rain delay.
“It happened fast,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “It was just bang-bang-bang. You hate to say a game is over early, but it didn’t start out well.”
Falling for the seventh time in nine games, the Twins (20-47) slipped a full game behind the Atlanta Braves for baseball’s worst record.
After the game, Dean was optioned back to Triple-A Rochester and veteran lefty Tommy Milone was added back to the 40-man roster after clearing waivers six weeks ago. In seven starts for the Red Wings, Milone went 4-0 with a 1.66 earned-run average and 41 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings.
Milone, who threw seven shutout innings Tuesday, will be available out of the beleaguered Twins bullpen for both weekend games against the Yankees. Depending on how and whether he’s used, Milone will likely be slotted into the Twins rotation following Monday’s scheduled off day.
“We all know what’s going on with our bullpen,” Molitor said.
Jacoby Ellsbury started the first with a single, and Rob Refsnyder doubled him in to put the last-place visitors on the board five pitches in.
Carlos Beltran, 39, then put a slider that didn’t slide into the second deck in left for a two-run homer.
Finally, mercifully, Alex Rodriguez grounded out to third for Dean’s first out of the game.
A walk to Starlin Castro, a double off the right-field wall by Chase Headley, a mound visit from interim pitching coach Eric Rasmussen, a run-scoring single by Didi Gregorius – on and on it went for Dean (1-3), who wouldn’t last the third.
He was pulled at 68 pitches, his ERA having spiked nearly a run and a half (from 4.17 to 5.54). It was the shortest start of Dean’s brief big-league career; he had lasted at least six innings in three of his first five starts.
“I need to stay aggressive,” Dean said. “I can’t let things like that happen, where I let the game speed up on me. I need to slow it down and keep in control of the pace of the game. I let this one get away from me.”
Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka (4-2) won for the third time in as many career starts against the Twins. Max Kepler’s groundout scored Trevor Plouffe with the Twins’ only run off the veteran Japanese right-hander.
That began a stretch in which Tanaka faced two over the minimum (two singles) through the seventh. After pitching into a jam in the eighth, Tanaka retired Robbie Grossman on a fly to left and Brian Dozier on a strikeout with his 110th and final pitch.
Eduardo Escobar added a solo homer in the ninth to cap a 10-pitch at-bat against Nick Goody. It was Escobar’s first homer since last Sept. 26 at Detroit off Kyle Lobstein, ending a power drought of 163 at-bats.
Joe Mauer singled in the eighth to reach base for the 28th straight game, matching his season-opening streak.
The Twins went 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position and are 2 for 16 halfway through the four-game series.
Molitor reminded Dean to keep refining his changeup and curveball as he returns to Rochester, where he shined in April to earn his first big-league call-up in early May. At his best, Dean said, he was not only using all four of his pitches but locating well within the strike zone.
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