So, this Oritz guy...
In two starts, Ramon Ortiz has looked like he owns the mound. He stalks the rubber as if it's familiar, as if he belongs there. The gaunt cheeks and lanky frame make him look quite different from most guys in a baseball uniform, and yet he seems more at home and in his element than most of the Twins rotation.
Ortiz's history tempers my excitement a bit, because I don't expect these two starts to be the beginning of a veteran pitcher bucking his trend of performance through the years of his career. At the same time, Ramon Ortiz has pitched one hell of a game, twice in a row. We've all discussed how the rotation needs somebody else to step up besides Johan Santana, and Ortiz has been the first man to step forward.
Coming off two miserable defeats at the hands of baseball's mega conglomerate, Ortiz mixed accuracy with his arsenal, and gave his offense a chance to salvage a victory for the Twins. His fastball established his authority of the strike zone, and his offspeed pitches caught hitters off guard. And in one very telling moment early in the game, he busted Derek Jeter inside with a tight fastball, and the crowd lept to its feet with thunderous applause. It's about f^@&!#g time, was my thought. It sounded like everyone else at the Dome was thinking the same thing.
Offensively, every hitter in the Twins lineup reached base one way or another last night. Luis Castillo walked in the 8th to start the Twins rally, and stole second on a gutsy move when the guy on the mound throws 98/99 mph. Nick Punto then struck out on three pitches, which included a bunt foul (groan) and a whiff on a ball out of the zone (groooaaan).
Joe Mauer then worked patiently on the erratic Farnsworth, taking a pitch low in the zone and busting it into left field, scoring Castillo from second. Hustling around first with the throw to the plate, Mauer slid safely into second base. He advanced to third on a wild pitch.
After Cuddyer singled to left and Mauer crossed the dish to give the Twins a 3-1 lead, the Twins collected two more hits in three pitches. Justin Morneau took the first pitch he saw, a fastball on the inner half, and lined it into right field for a double that scored Cuddyer from first.
Hunter took a pitch as Bert insisted Torii was still going to go deep, and go deep he did. On the next offer from Farnsworth, Hunter went not "out of the ballpark deep", but technically, deep all the same. Torii's blast was an inside-out swing, launching the ball deep to right. It bounced off the top of the baggy, and Morneau walked in from second base.
Mike Myers then relieved the battered Kyle Farnsworth, and that ended the rally for the Twins. As the next two hitters went down easily, the Twins left the 8th inning with a 5-1 lead. Joe Nathan made the ninth worth watching as the Yankees managed first and second with one away, but he worked out of the jam.
It was a nice way to end a series that had been a struggle. The bats came alive, and as they say, "hitting is contagious", so hopefully this will give the offense a lift as the Devil Rays come to town. Hopefully, Silva can be as effective in his second start as Ortiz.
I'll see you tonight, game time is 7:10 with Silva facing off against Casey Fossum. GO TWINS!