ATLANTA (AP) - The Minnesota Twins were one out away from ending their longest losing streak of the season.
Glen Perkins couldn't finish the job.
Perkins surrendered a pinch-hit homer to Evan Gattis with two outs in the ninth to send the game to extra innings, and the Atlanta Braves pulled out a 5-4 win in the 10th on Freddie Freeman's run-scoring blooper to hand the Twins their seventh straight loss Tuesday night.
``We've been struggling,' Perkins said. ``The guys fought back and got a lead. Just bad timing.'
The Twins overcame a 3-2 deficit in the eighth, pushing ahead on back-to-back, RBI singles by Trevor Plouffe and Ryan Doumit off a depleted Atlanta bullpen.
``We made a nice comeback to get back in the game,' Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``Our bullpen did just a super job of shutting everything down.'
Until the end, that is.
``Unfortunately,' added Gardenhire, ``a tough one.'
Not for the first-place Braves, who pulled out their fifth straight victory thanks to Gattis. He came through with his third pinch-hit homer of the season - and second in four days.
``I'm kind of getting used to it,' he said with a shrug.
His teammates were left shaking their heads.
``It's awesome to see,' said Braves starter Tim Hudson, who worked five solid innings despite a lengthy rain delay. ``People around the league are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to make sure he doesn't put the ball in the seats.'
Freeman dumped a two-out single into short right field off Brian Duensing (0-1) to bring home Jason Heyward with the winning run.
``It wasn't the prettiest swing,' Freeman said, ``but it got the job done.'
Gattis, who surprisingly made the team as a non-roster player, has been a key contributor all season. He was NL rookie of the month in April, getting plenty of starts while the Braves battled a string of injuries. Now, with all the regulars healthy, he's showing what he can do off the bench. It was his ninth homer of the season, four of which have been tying or go-ahead shots in the eighth inning or later.
``I don't know how to explain it,' Freeman said. ``It's incomprehensible.'
Gattis was looking for a pinch over the inside part of the plate.
He got just what he was looking for - an 0-1 slider from Perkins - sending a drive deep into the left-field seats.
``I think he guessed right,' Perkins said. ``You've got to make good pitches. That guy, he's up there to do one thing, and he did it.'
Duensing got the first two hitters in the 10th, but Heyward doubled off the wall in left-center. Justin Upton was intentionally walked before Freeman came through on a 3-2 pitch for his second RBI of the game.
Craig Kimbrel (1-1) worked a scoreless 10th for the win.
Brian McCann homered and drove in two runs for the Braves, while Hudson pitched around a 1-hour, 26-minute rain delay - but they were afterthoughts in light of the dramatic comeback.
The Braves bullpen, which lost Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty to season-ending surgeries in the past week, surrendered the lead in the eighth. Luis Avilan retired only one batter, giving up a hit and a walk.
Plouffe tied the game at 3 with a slow roller off Cory Gearrin that got through the hole between first and second. Doumit followed with another hit to right, this one much sharper, to put the Twins ahead.
Hudson gave up five hits and two runs while striking out five. He bounced back from two rough starts, having allowed 11 runs in 8 2-3 innings in losses at San Francisco and Arizona.
Anthony Swarzak gave up one run - McCann's fourth-inning homer - over four innings in relief of Minnesota starter Mike Pelfrey, who was lifted after a fierce storm suddenly popped up with the Twins batting in the third. The umpires wasted no time calling for the ground crew, which struggled to get the tarp over the infield amid blinding rain and whipping winds.
Then, as the storm began to break almost as quickly as it appeared, a power surge knocked out the lights and video board at Turner Field. The board came back on in a matter of seconds, but the lights took much longer to fire back up.
With the field fully lit, Hudson quickly gave up an RBI single to Justin Morneau, tying the game at 2. Pelfrey didn't return after surrendering two runs in the first.
Gardenhire decided the delay was too long to risk letting his starter go back to the mound.
``Pelfrey was lobbying pretty hard to go back in the game,' the manager said. ``We're not going to press that this early in the season. Swarzak came in and was fantastic.'
Notes: Plouffe had to leave the game in the 10th after getting a knee to the side of the head while sliding into second as Dan Uggla tried to turn a double play. He'll undergo a concussion test and it's not known if he'll be able to play the series finale on Wednesday. ... Paul Maholm (5-4) will pitch for the Braves against Vance Worley (1-4). ... The Twins will start RHP Samuel Deduno against the Tigers on Friday. He will take the spot previously held by LHP Pedro Hernandez, who was demoted to the minors. Deduno starred for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic before sustaining a groin injury pitching in the final. He spent six weeks recovering before joining Minnesota's Triple-A team at Rochester. ... Braves RHP Jordan Walden (shoulder inflammation) played long toss before the game but isn't likely to be activated Monday, when he is eligible to come off the disabled list.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved