I'm getting real tired of this west coast swing. First the Twins blow a 12-2 lead in Oakland, losing 14-13, then Perkins gets shelled in a 16-1 loss, and now this. Up 5-3 in the bottom of the 9th, All Star closer Joe Nathan on the hill. Coming into the game, Nathan had converted 26 of 28 save opportunities. Automatic, right? In the words of Lee Corso on ESPN College Gameday, "Not so fast, my friend..."
Nathan started the 9th with an uncharacteristic leadoff walk to Bobby Abreu. After a Kendry Morales fly out to Carlos Gomez, Nathan hit Mike Napoli with a 2-2 fastball, putting runners on first and second. Erick Aybar flew out to short right field, failing to advance the runners. Two outs, Gary Matthews Jr. and his .236 batting average at the plate. Nathan quickly went up 1-2, and then started nibbling on the outside corner. After the game, he noted "I thought I had Matthews, but I didn't get the call." The next two pitches (both fastballs) were close, but according to MLB Gameday, they were an inch or two off the outside corner. Nathan came back with a 3-2 slider, low and away, which Matthews dumped into center field to bring the Angels within one run. Howie Kendrick then tied the game with a ground ball right over the second base bag that shortstop Nick Punto just barely couldn't reach. Nathan got ut of the inning with a Reggie Willits ground out, but the damage had been done.
At this point, you know the drill. Morneau, Kubel and Cuddyer went 1-2-3 in the top of the 10th, and Jesse Crain. Yes, Jesse Crain, recently recalled after his demotion, came into the game. Single, sac bunt, intentional walk, double, and it's game over. Angels win 6-5 in 10.
Stars and additional notes after the jump.
Three stars of the game: I have to agree with AdamOnFirst in the game thread last night.
1. Joe Mauer: 3 for 4, 2 runs, 2 RBI, walk. Hopefully this marks the end of his slump.
2. Jason Kubel: 3 run homer in the first
1. Joe Nathan: All closers blow a save now and then, but why does it always seem to be on the west coast? He wasn't hit hard, but Nathan got himself into trouble with a leadoff walk and HBP.
2. Alexi Casilla: 0 for 4, 2 SO, 4 LOB. He's now down to .168 batting average. DO NOT BAT THIS GUY #2!!!
3. Denard Span: Top of the 9th, Mauer singles in Carlos Gomez. Span gets thrown out by center fielder Garry Matthews to end the inning. The difference between a 2 run lead and a 3 run lead going into the 9th.