Twins kick A's

The Twins had a 10-0 lead going into the ninth inning and turned the game into a save situation before squeaking out a 10-5 win.

Scott Baker had a shutout going into the ninth before running out of gas and handing the game over to the bullpen afer three men reached in the ninth. Jesse Crain and Jose Mijares combined to give half the lead away (with  two assists by Alexi Casilla's erratic glove). But Joe Nathan came in with the bases loaded and one out to strike out Jack Hannahan and Rajai Davis and save it for the Twins.

The ugly ninth overshadowed what should have been a comfortable 10-0 win. The heart of the order led the offense, combining for eight hits, two homers and five RBI. Justin Morneau went 4-5 with a homer and 2 RBI. Jason Kubel hit a 3-run homer and every regular in the line-up got on base for the Twins.

Baker pitched to just one man over the minimum through eight innings. He entered in the ninth with just 96 pitches after four straight 1-2-3 innings, eight strikeouts and no walks. But he seemed to tire in the ninth. He left with the bases loaded and turned the game over to Crain with Adam Kennedy and Jack Cust coming to the plate. Why Ron Gardenhire didn't bring in the left hander Mijares to face the two lefties is a mystery. But Crain predictably allowed all three inherited runs to score and reloaded the bases without retiring a batter before Gardenhire brought in Mijares. Mijares struck out Jason Giambi but walked the next two batters with the bases loaded, creating a save situation for Nathan. Nathan needed just seven pitches (all strikes) to put out the fire and get the Twins into the clubhouse with a rare road win.

Nathan can thank Alexi Casilla for his 12th save. Casilla got a glove on two grounders in the ninth that should have led to at least two outs, but didn't come up with either ball cleanly. With Baker pitching and runners on first and second, pinch hitter Bobby Crosby hit a grounder up the middle and Casilla tried to catch it and flip it to Brendan Harris covering second with his glove. Instead the ball trickled away for an infield hit to load the bases. Later in the inning, Chris Denorfia hit  a grounder off Crain right to Casilla, who tried to catch it and wheel around to throw to second to start a double play all in one motion, again letting the ball trickle away for an error. Casilla didn't start this game, but entered after Joe Crede was hit on the hand by a pitch.

All that bush-league pitching and fielding in the ninth stained what should have been a pristine win. Joe Mauer reached base three times in five plate appearances, scoring twice and gunning down Kennedy on s steal attempt with a perfect throw. Morneau and Kubel crushed pitches through the cool night air for long homers. Harris hit four liners, three for hits. Michael Cuddyer got the scoring going with a single and a aggerssive base running paly. And even Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez got into the act, hitting back-to-back RBI doubles down opposite lines in the fifth inning to knock out A's starter Brett Anderson.

 

Studs:

1. Justin Morneau: Justin was on the ball tonight, going 4-5 with a homer, two RBI and 2 runs scored.

2. Scott Baker: Baker didn't deserve those earned runs. If Casilla makes that play, it could have easliy been a double play, and he's one out away form three-hit shutout. Instead his night is done and all the runners on the bases score without him on the mound. The way Bert Blyleven was talking, Baker had pitched poorly with a two-hit shutout going into the ninth, and he blamed the whole ninth inning collapse on Baker. That's just Bert being a jerk. Baker pitched great.

3. Jason Kubel: Kubel seems to pick his spots for homers, hitting a three-run bomb to really break the game open.

4. Brendan Harris: Harris is hitting everything on a line into the right-center gap. He's fun to watch when he's hot like this.

 

Duds:

1. Jesse Crain: I'm starting to think his days are numbered in a Twins uniform. After serving up a  two-run single on the first pitch to Kennedy, He very nearly gave up a three-run homer to Cust, who's ball hooked just foul. He walked him instead. Then he very nearly gave up a three-run double to Denorfia. (That ball landed foul by inches.) Instead, he induced the grounder that Casilla booted. 0.0 IP 1H 2 R 1 ER 1 BB 0 SO 3 inherited runners scored.

2. Alexi Casilla: This might be the last game he plays for the Twins for a while, as Nick Punto is two days from being activated from the DL and Gardenhire has indicated that Punto will likely play second base when he returns, with Harris playing well at short. A week ago, the plan was to send Matt Tolbert down when Punto returns. But Tolbert is much more versatile and fundamentally sound than Casilla.

3. Jose Mijares: After striking out Giambi, he walks in two runs, forcing the Twins to use their closer. Not good.

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