Twins 13, Royals 4
Do you hear that? Can you still hear it? It's the reverb from the cacophony of noise created by fans at the Dome. Why, you may ask?
Because we just forced game 163.
"BOOM!" said Jason Kubel.
"BOOM!" said Delmon Young.
"BOOM!" said Kubel, again.
"Ditto," said Delmon.
As the Detroit Tigers hung on to salvage one game from the Chicago White Sox this afternoon, the Twins were busy putting the hurt on the Kansas City Royals. It was 7-0 at the end of the third inning, with six of those runs crossing the plate stuck in Kubel's beard; a pair of three-run jacks lifted Jason to one of the best days of his career in a crucial game.
Young went deep twice of his own accord, solo shots that, "just enough" or not, certainly did the trick. His second blast put the Twins up 8-1 going into the sixth, and the game looked like it was on ice. But oh yeah, we were facing the Royals, and they have just as much fight as the Twins. Sadly for them they don't have the talent to match, but for one half of an inning, things were interesting.
Carl Pavano started on three days rest this afternoon, and he looked good. Working out of a second and third with one out situation in the second inning, he made a statement about exactly what kind of a pitcher he can be when he bears down. He worked John Buck out-in-out-in-in to induce a shallow fly-out to center that couldn't score a run, and then quickly sent down Alex Gordon as well. It was a microcosm of the game for the Royals: try as they might, it wasn't going to be good enough.
Pavano pitched around a Luis Hernandez leadoff double in the third before allowing a run in the fourth off back-to-back doubles by Alberto Callaspo and Mark Teahen. He looked strong again the fifth before falling off the table in the aforementioned sixth.
Mike Jacobs picked up a leadoff single before Callaspo tripled to bring the score to 8-2. Still Pavano battled back, striking out Teahen and inducing a Buck ground-out for out number two. Another run scored, but with the bases empty and the bullpen spare he attacked Alex Gordon.
"BOOM!", said Gordon. 8-4, hook for Pavano, enter Bobby Keppel.
Quick, ask me which pitcher I don't want to see in a game.
Keppel lasted six pitches, delivering five fastballs down the middle of the plate and a slider in the dirt. The Royals continued to jab with the left, trying to inch closer before coming in with a strong right. With runners on the corners and still just the two outs that Pavano managed, Ron Gardenhire went to Ron Mahay in order to get lefty Mitch Maier.
Mahay hit Maier.
Bases loaded, down by four and with Billy Butler at the dish, this game suddenly didn't look like such a sure shot. Gardenhire power walked to the mound for the third time that inning, stuck two fingers up Mahay's nose, pulled down, said "Get outta here you knucklehead" and then poked Mahay in the eyes. Out came Jon Rauch.
Big, surly Jon Rauch. The Jon Rauch whose tattoo changes color depending on his mood. I think it's like a mood tattoo, and today it was green. Whatever green means, it didn't bode well for the Royals. Rauch dusted in and out with a couple of breaking balls, and then attacked the outer half with two consecutive fastballs, the second of which Butler just stood and watched without flinching. Strike three, good sir.
From there things got considerably easier. In the bottom half of the sixth Denard Span walked, and then scored on an Orlando Cabrera double down the left field line. After Kubel singled in the seventh, Carlos Gomez replaced him on the bases and later scored on a Matt Tolbert (TOL-BEAR!!) double into right. In the bottom half of the eighth Span singled, and then scored on a Cabrera double down the left field line. Yes, again. Oh, and one more thing.
"BOOM!" said Cuddyer. With authori-tah.
Astoundingly the Royals actually out-hit the Twins 12-11, with the difference being that A) the Twins walked seven times and B) the Twins out-homered the Royals 5-1. That kind of thing usually makes it very easy to win.
Brian Duensing, Jesse Crain and Francisco Liriano dusted off the final three innings without allowing a run, and at the end of the afternoon the Twins had done the unbelieveable: they'd swept the Royals, and earned themselves a shot at the division title.
While the White Sox couldn't complete the miracle, it hardly seems to matter. Minnesota was written off for dead, not just by most of the baseball world but by many of their own fans. And you know what? I don't blame anyone. I don't harbor any hard feelings toward anyone for looking at the mathematical probabilities on Friday morning and saying "nope". But it was't over then, and it's not over now.
Tuesday afternoon at four the Tigers come to town to defend a crown that should be theirs. There will be no pressure on the Twins in this game--they're "not supposed" to even be there. For the second year in a row the Twins have to play game 163 to decide whether or not they are the AL Central champions, to decide whether or not they earn the right to play post-season baseball. This time the game is being played where it should be played: in the comforts of Dome.
The season plays on for at least one more glorious afternoon of baseball. And we get once last shot under the teflon sky. Are you excited? Because you sure as hell should be.
Stars of the Game
#3: Delmon Young (2-for-5, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, .071 WPA)
#2: Carl Pavano (5.2 IP on three days rest, 8 H, 7 K, 1 BB, 4 R, .096 WPA)
#1: Jason Kubel (3-for-4, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 R, .257 WPA)