Justin goes Boom.
It was a see-saw battle through the first half of the game last night, each team putting up multiple multi-run innings against Kevin Slowey and Carlos Silva. They combined for eleven innings and 17 hits, four of which were home runs; Silva was chased after five while Slowey managed six to come away with a win.
There was a bit of an issue with the strike zone last night; on more than one occasion a ball that appeared to clearly be off the plate was called a strike by homeplate umpire Eric Cooper. This proved to be an issue for Joe Crede in particular, and while I'm not about to get on anyone's case for having a slow start (three whole games), once the umpire has established his strike zone then the hitter has to adjust. Crede struck out three times at the hands of Seattle hurlers on Wednesday night, and from my perspective I'd have preferred to see him adjust his strike zone protection rather than sit back and allow those balls to be called strikes. Protecting the plate, and the strike zone, can be an extraordinarily difficult thing for some guys with two strikes, but it has to be done.
Another negative for the Twins last night was the performance from Slowey. He managed to go six innings and struck out five, but unfortunately on those rare instances where he made mistakes the Mariners took full advantage. An infield single here, a strike called a ball there, and it adds up to a run or two that might not have been on the board in other games; I'm not about to say that Kevin had a bad night, because I think he pitched better than the numbers indicate. Hopefully when he takes the mound again in a few days, he gets a few more bounces to go his way.
On the other hand, after the give and take nature of the game through five innings, the pitching settled in. Slowey induced quite a few pop ups; two in the sixth for outs. Craig Breslow, Jesse Crain and Joe Nathan then combined for three shutout innings to preserve the win.
Most of the offense came from Justin Morneau, whose first-inning two-run blast gave the Twins their first lead. Russell Branyan mirrored that action the next half inning to tie the game briefly, before Denard Span sent another ball into the seats in the bottom of the second. It was another two-run shot, scoring Carlos Gomez who had led off the inning with a double.
With a 4-2 lead in the top of the fourth, Jose Lopez sent the fourth and final home run of the game into the left field seats. A single, double, single, stolen base and wild pitch later...Seattle had taken their first lead at 5-4. In spite of the offensive flurry, it was a game where you had the sense the Twins just weren't going to take losing as an option. Sometimes those senses are wrong, but they weren't last night.
Span led off the bottom of the fifth with an eight-pitch walk off Silva. But he was soon erased on a bone-headed base running play. We won't speak of it.
With Michael Cuddyer on first, Silva's first offering to Morneau was in the dirt. Cuddyer advanced to second base. After fouling off four pitches, Justin laced a grounder up the middle scoring Cuddyer, then advanced with a little heads-up base running. The game now tied and Silva clearly on the ropes, Jason Kubel pulled one to right, plating what would be the winning run.
It wasn't pretty, but it was a win all the same. A third consecutive victory is hopefully on the horizone here in the next few hours, so stay tuned.
Stars of the Game
#3: Jason Kubel (2-for-4, 2B, RBI)
#2: Justin Morneau (2-for-3, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, IBB)
#1: The Bullpen...Breslow/Crain/Nathan (3 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 3 K)