It looked good, briefly. A Jason Kubel ground out in the first plated Orlando Cabrera for a 1-0 lead, and after the Tigers tied it up in the top of the fourth Minnesota came back in the bottom half to answer. Delmon Young's double was the alpha, Nick Punto's clutch two-out hit was the omega, and the Twins re-took the lead at 2-1.
But that was as good as it would get.
It wasn't a good night for Scott Baker. He struggled early to find his rhythym, giving us a hint during his very first plate appearance when he had trouble putting Curtis Granderson away. Seven pitches later Granderson would strike out, but it would be a promise of things to come. By the time the fifth inning rolled around Baker had been staked to a 2-1 lead. I'm still cringing at what happened.
In reality, the inning wasn't as horrible as I remember it being. At the time it was total agony. A seven-pitch walk to Gerald Laird (yes, Gerald friggin Laird, and that I still maintain that changeup was a STRIKE), Ramo Santiago picking up a single, Granderson grounding out but still advancing both runners. Placido Polanco scoring them both on a single to give the Tigers their first and final lead of the game. Marcus Thames adding another single, Miguel Cabrera flying out (that's two if he could just get one more!!!) and Magglio Ordonez picking up yet another single (NO!) to complete the Tigers' three-run inning. Baker was lifted with two away in the fifth, having faced seven batters and given up four singles, a walk and three runs.
Ron Mahay finished the inning.
Francisco Liriano picked up the final out in the sixth, managed a perfect seventh (with a pair of strikeouts no less), and then paid for his successes in the eighth. He'd done well for four outs, but to be fair it wasn't like he knew where his pitches were going. Liriano consistently missed his spots, but as we've come to know, Liriano can also be at his best when he's effectively wild. Which is a great way of saying "thanks, hitters, for swinging at crap", although at the same time his slider is still pretty tough.
So when Liriano surprised everyone by throwing two consecutive pitches low in the strike zone to Ryan Rayburn, it came as some surprise. Rayburn's solo home run, not so much of a surprise. Cisco walked Brandon Inge, who would later score off a sacrifice fly with Jon Rauch on the hill. Liriano clearly still has some work to do mentally. All the talent in the world, and I'm not going to complain too much about a guy with his stuff being "effectively wild", but there has to be some sort of consistency because right now there's none.
The Twins don't pick up the sweep, and it's a shame, but they still come away with a series win which puts them one very meaningful game closer to first place than they were when this whole stress-filled weekend started. A week from tomorrow we get to be in Detroit for a four-game tilt which, hopefully, still means something. Which will depend on how things play out over the next week.
Minnesota gets a three-game stand in Chicago with the struggling White Sox before getting a day off, and then taking on the Royals for three next weekend. While the Twins are in Kansas City, the Sox will be hosting the Tigers. Detroit, meanwhile, gets Monday off before travelling to Cleveland for three. Both the Twins and Tigers are on the road, both play the Sox. This will be a very telling week.
It's been a great weekend, and I'll see you all tomorrow