This is how to lose a game in bizarr-o world.
There have been times when the middle of the Twins batting order have provided all the offense needed for the win. It's happened with astonishing regularity, actually. But when you can blank the middle of Minnesota's lineup it gets much easier for anyone to take the Twins down.
Francisco Liriano didn't pitch badly, even pitching himself out of a one-out-man-on-third situation in the fifth inning, when he struck out Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler to limit the inning's damage to one and keep the Twins in front 3-2. Liriano struck out six over six-plus innings, and allowed just two earned runs. He combined with Bobby Keppel, Jose Mijares and Matt Guerrier to give the Twins 10 innings of three-run ball. Sadly the game lasted 12 innings, and the Rangers scored five.
The run that scord in the fifth came on a ball that got by Joe Mauer, who also managed to go 0-for-6. It was enough to make me cry, so I'm going to stop talking about it now.
After pitching a scoreless eleventh, Brian Duensing came out for his second inning of work and promtly gave up a leadoff single to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Andrus moved him up with a successful sacrifice bunt, and Gardy pulled him for R.A. Dickey.
Dickey, who confused even Gameday by throwing five knuckleballs in a row (dubbed by Gameday as curveball, curveball, changeup, curveball and changeup), decided to "freeze" Kinsler with a fastball. Dickey wound up, got everything he could into it, and blasted an 85-mph fastball right over the middle of the plate. Kinsler picked it up right out of Dickey's hand, plotted it's trajectory, licked his finger to test the wind, took a barometer out of his pocket to test the air pressure, ate a steak dinner, and then destroyed the fastball for a two-run walk-off skyjack.
It's going to be easy to blame the knuckleballer for this one, but this was a team effort. Or lack thereof. Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Mauer were hitless, and it has to be said that if the game is in danger you bring in Joe Nathan. He can throw 10 pitches, get out of the inning, and sit down. I know he's pitched this series, but it doesn't matter. Your best reliever should be up and ready to go.
Delmon Young collected a pair of hits in his first start since July 10, and took his second walk of the month as well; that's two more than he managed all of June. Young is now hitting .400/.455/.600 in 20 July at-bats. Denard Span and Alexi Casilla drove in a run each, took a pair of walks between them, and Casilla even got a hit. But there was one other Twin who managed a hit last night. His name is Nick Punto.
Trailing 1-0 in the top of the second inning, Punto took a 2-2 hanging slider from Rangers starter Derek Holland and hit it over the fence. Unbelieveable is what it was. In a game where Dickey threw a fastball, Mauer was hitless in six tries and allowed a passed ball, and a home run was over-turned by replay...that was the biggest surprise. Punto's shot cleared the fence by the proverbial skin of its teeth, but there it went: Nick's first home run of the season. And it tied the game at one.
Punto also picked up the defensive play of the game for Minnesota, turning an unassisted double play. With runners on first and second it could easily have been called an Infield Fly, but it wasn't; Punto slid and couldn't quite get there, picked up the ball, tagged the runner and then stepped on second base. To be fair, Nick did make a legitimate effort to catch the ball...or at least he made it look like a legitimate effort.
Stars of the Game
#3: Bobby Keppel (1.2 IP, 1 K, 1 BB, 0 R, .151 WPA)
#2: Matt Guerrier (2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, .348 WPA)
#1: Nick Punto (DP 6-U, 3-for-4, HR, RBI, R, .112 WPA)