The game was on the line and the closer failed, a familiar scene for both the Seattle Mariners and the Minnesota Twins.
The only difference was that the Mariners might have solved their bullpen problems. The Twins have not.Alex Rodriguez hit Rick Aguilera's second pitch of the 10th inning for the go-ahead home run in Seattle's 3-2 victory Thursday night, the second straight successful outing for the Mariners' beleaguered bullpen.
But Aguilera's third failure in a week was a crushing blow to the Twins, who are 7-7 even though their 94 runs lead the AL and their 3.58 team ERA is second only to Baltimore's 3.46.
"The pitch the guy hit was a (heck) of a pitch," Twins manager Tom Kelly said. "You have to give Rodriguez credit . . . Aggie's our man in the bullpen until I see otherwise, but I don't see that in the near future."
The Twins, who managed only rookie David Ortiz's two-run double in the fourth, are 1-5 in one-run games this season, including 0-3 in extra innings. Aguilera has been the culprit in three of those losses: at Kansas City last Friday, at Tampa Bay Monday and Thursday.
The Twins' career saves leader, the 36-year-old Aguilera is a notoriously slow starter. His 4.92 ERA in April entering this season was more than a full run higher than his next-worst month.
Yet his struggles early this season are reminiscent of his performance in 1997, when he converted only 26 of 33 save opportunities and stranded only 59 percent of the runners he inherited.
"Last year I really wasn't throwing the ball well," Aguilera said. "I'm throwing the ball well now, but the results haven't been there, obviously."
DEVIL RAYS 6, ANGELS 5: At Anaheim, Bobby Smith snapped a tie with an RBI double in the seventh inning as Tampa Bay beat Anaheim to become the first expansion team in major league history to win eight of its first 13 games. Smith put the Devil Rays up 5-4 with his double off reliever Mike Holtz (1-1) in the seventh.
The Devils Rays' 8-5 start also is the best of any new team in the history of the NFL, NBA or NHL.
ATHLETICS 12, ROYALS 7: At Oakland, Matt Stairs hit a grand slam and Jason Giambi homered twice as Oakland beat Kansas City to break a six-game losing streak.
Stairs had five RBIs, doubling in a run in the third and hitting his third career slam in the fourth. Giambi homered leading off the second and added a two-run shot in the third. Jason McDonald also homered for the A's.
Jeff King homered and had four RBIs for the Royals, and Dean Palmer added a homer and three RBIs.
Tom Candiotti (1-3) gave up five runs in seven innings for the A's. Tim Belcher (1-3) allowed nine runs on nine hits - including four homers - in 3 2-3 innings for the Royals.
WHITE SOX 8, ORIOLES 2: At Baltimore, rookie Jeff Abbott homered twice and Mike Sirotka pitched his first complete game in the majors as Chicago beat Baltimore for the White Sox's first series victory of the season.
Albert Belle and Ray Durham also homered for the White Sox, who connected three times against Mike Mussina (2-2). Abbott and Belle hit successive 400-foot shots in the fifth inning to give Chicago a 5-0 lead.