Nathan blows 2nd save, Twins lose 4-3 to Rays

A late bullpen failure and lack of clutch hitting cost the Minnesota Twins — again.

Ben Zobrist led off the ninth with a tying home run and Johnny Damon ended the game with a two-out single, leading the Tampa Bay Rays to a 4-3 victory over the Twins on Saturday.

Minnesota's Joe Nathan (0-1) blew his second save of the series when Zobrist homered to tie the score at 3.

"He's our closer. It happens," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It didn't work out today."

B.J. Upton walked and stole second. Nathan was replaced by Jose Mijares after walking Casey Kotchman and getting a flyball from John Jaso.

"We just got him out of the game. He had already thrown 16 or 17 pitches, and I'm not going let him stand out there and throw, throw, throw, throw," Gardenhire said. "Just keep moving forward."

Nathan didn't pitch last season after having right elbow ligament replacement surgery. The right-hander feels fine physically, but is a little inconsistent on the mound.

"I think it's definitely progressed from spring training," Nathan said. "There's days that are a little tougher than others. Just got beat today."

The Twins went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

"We missed some opportunities," Gardenhire said.

Mijares struck out pinch-hitter Elliot Johnson for the second out before walking Sam Fuld to load the bases. Damon then won it on his 2,583rd career hit — which tied him with Ernie Banks for 80th place all-time.

Juan Cruz (1-0) worked a scoreless ninth for the Rays, who have won five in a row.

Matt Capps gave up an RBI single in the eighth to Matt Joyce that cut the Tampa Bay deficit to 3-2. Minnesota has lost four straight and six of seven.

Nathan and Capps both had blown save opportunities in Tampa Bay's 4-3, 10-inning win over the Twins on Thursday night.

"We got the game in the right situation and it didn't work out," Gardenhire said.

Scott Baker, who held the Rays hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position, allowed one run and four hits in seven innings. He kept Tampa Bay from scoring after Joyce opened the fourth with a double, and worked out of a two-on, no-out jam in fifth.

"We're just not getting it done at the end of the day," Baker said.

Baker struck out six and walked one. The right-hander retired his last nine batters.

Jason Kubel put the Twins up 1-0 on a second-inning homer off Jeff Niemann. Kubel's shot was just the fourth home run hit by Minnesota this season.

Kubel had been hitless in nine previous at-bats against Niemann before his solo shot.

Minnesota took a 2-0 lead when Alexi Casilla scored during the third on Luke Hughes' double-play grounder.

Denard Span made it 3-1 with a fifth-inning RBI triple.

NOTES: Minnesota 1B Justin Morneau was the DH. "Give him a little break," Gardenhire said. "I think he's doing really good." Morneau missed the final 78 games last season due to a concussion. ... Twins C Joe Mauer (viral infection) could take part in a light workout Sunday at the ballpark. ... Span has a hit in six straight games. He will be rested on Sunday after playing in all 14 games this season. ... It's the first time Nathan has blown consecutive save opportunities since Aug. 30-Sept. 3, 2008.