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ST. LOUIS – The tryout for a semipermanent spot in the rotation was a success. The audition for the vacant closer role didn't go so well.
Griffin Jax, handed Jose Berrios' scheduled start and endowed by the day's trades an opportunity to do so for the remainder of the season, gave up only two singles, two walks and one run in five innings at Busch Stadium. But Tyler Duffey, a plausible candidate to inherit a ninth-inning role in a bullpen scrambled by injury and deal-making, surrendered three hits, including a bases-clearing double, in his lone inning, and the Twins fell to the Cardinals 5-1 Friday for their third loss in a row.
Jax, summoned to St. Louis on Thursday in case Berrios was dealt away, enjoyed his finest outing in seven major league appearances, and finished with a flourish by retiring the final six hitters he faced before being lifted for a pinch hitter.
"I know Jose left a lasting mark on this team and this organization," Jax said after shaving a full run off his ERA, though it still stands at 6.41. "So I just wanted to take the legacy that he sort of left behind and just give this team a competitive game today, just so we can sort of give ourselves a new start moving forward."
The Cardinals' lone run off him was largely a creation of their own aggressiveness, beginning with Tyler O'Neill's leadoff single in the fourth inning. O'Neill stole second base, moved to third on Yadier Molina's fly out, and scored easily on a medium-depth sacrifice fly to left by Harrison Bader.
In the sixth, Duffey also gave up a leadoff single, then issued a one-out walk. After catching Molina looking with a nice two-strike curveball, Bader hit a line drive that shortstop Andrelton Simmons dove to knock down, saving a run, but couldn't catch. Tommy Edman followed with a liner that landed inches inside the right-field line, scoring three runs to break the 1-1 tie.
The Twins, losers of five of their past six games, peppered Wade LeBlanc during his 5⅔ innings, but could only score one run, on Simmons' two-out single in the second. The Twins loaded the bases in the fourth with only one out, but Jax — whose last at-bat before Friday came when he was a freshman at Air Force in 2013 — flew out too shallow to score Willians Astudillo, and Jorge Polanco grounded out to end the threat.
"Man, I forgot how fastballs look from that angle. I know [LeBlanc is] not the hardest thrower, but 88 and 89 looked way too fast," Jax said. "I'm happy and proud of myself for making contact."
The Twins put runners at the corners with two out in the sixth inning and the score tied, so Max Kepler was summoned to hit for Jax, but he struck out, and his team never put a runner past first base again.