Kevin Slowey pitched another quality start and the bullpen did just enough to hold onto a victory. Mauer reached base four times with 3 RBI to lead the offense. Denard Span added two hits with an RBI and two runs scored to team up with Mauer for a to a 4-0 early lead. The Twins got Web Gems from Justin Morneau and Carlos Gomez to help Slowey keep the Indians off the board. And Joe Nathan picked up a rare 4-out save to nail down the victory.
The Twins led 4-0 in the seventh and Slowey was cruising along when the bottom of the Indians order rallied. With two outs, Luis Valbuena on second and Trevor Crowe on first, Kelly Shoppach hit a looper down the first base line. Both Morneau and Alexi Casilla went after the ball and collided in attempting to catch it. The ball went off both their gloves and trickled into foul territory, allowing the runners to score and Shoppach to make it to second. Clearly flustered, Slowey issued a walk to Jamey Carrol, ending his night. But Matt Guerrier struck out Ben Francisco to end the threat and the inning.
Aside from the gift Texas League double, the Twins defense sparkeled on this night, especially in the third inning. Shoppach led off that inning with a hard grounder into the hole at short. Brendan Harris dove and smothered the ball, but fired low and towards right field. Somehow Morneau managed to keep his foot on the bag while stretching out on his bellie and back-handing the short-hop throw in the palm of his glove to nip Shoppach by a half step. With two outs in the inning and Francisco on first after a single, Victor Martinez hit what looked like a sure double to the gap in right center. Gomez ran 100 feet and leaped high in the air to grab the ball at the wall and brace for the collision with the wall with his spikes. That play saved at least a run; the two plays together likely saved two runs.
Victor Martinez brought the Indians within one run on a homer against Jose Mijares to lead off the eighth. Mijares got two outs before giving up a double to Mark DeRosa into the right-center gap. WIth left-handed hitter Valbuena due up, Eric Wedge brought in pinch hitter Ryan Garko. Ron Gardenhire countered by brinigng in Nathan, who got Garko to hit a weak grounder to second to end the threat. Nathan came back out in the ninth inning for his tenth save, featuring a new hard cutter to mow down the Indians. But he did add a little nail biting at the end, when Carrol singled with two out and Francisco hit a fly to deep left field that was mercifully caught by Delmon Young to end the game.
Studs and duds after the break.
1. Joe Mauer: The only thing keeping him from a four-hit night was the inexplicable sacrifice bunt by Span after an Alexi Casilla walk to lead off the seventh inning. This led to an intentional walk of Mauer and a double play grounder by Morneau. Why the manager would take the bat out of the hands of his best hitter is a mystery to me.
2. Denard Span: He was back in the groove after a tough series in St. Petersburg. After a lot of late swings resulting in weak pop ups the other way in his home town, Span laced two balls right up the middle.
3. Joe Nathan: Nathan earned this save, coming in with the tying run on second and breaking Garko's bat on a tough sinker in on the hands, then mowing them down in the ninth.
Honorable Mention: Alexi Casilla: His two-out double got the offense going in the third inning. He also walked later in the game.
1. Jason Kubel: 0-4 with 2Ks and 3 LOB
2. Delmon Young: 0-4 with 2Ks and 2 LOB
3. Brian Buscher: 0-4 with 1K and 2 LOB.