That's no way to lose a ballgame.
When the White Sox strung together three consecutive two-out base hits in the bottom of the eighth and took their first lead of the afternoon, it was easy to believe the Twins would find a way to come back. They'd held the lead for most of the afternoon, and over the last few days it seemed like whenever the team needed a big hit, somebody came through.
It happened again today.
With two out in the top of the ninth, J.J. Hardy laced a liner into left field for a base hit. Jim Thome then stepped in as a pinch-hitter, instigating a mini battle with Bobby Jenks. Unable to keep up with Jenks' wicked fastball and laying off of one very close pitch, Thome took the fourth pitch he saw and smashed it the other way. It arced high through the Chicago sky, but bounced off the outfield wall and right back to left fielder Juan Pierre.
Hardy, who was off on contact, had barely enough time to round third base before the cutoff man had received Pierre's throw and turned it around to A.J. Pierzynski. Hardy was dead in the water and never had a chance, as A.J. stood in front of the plate and waited for Hardy to close the final 45 feet. Why was it such an easy play?
Because Ullger waived Hardy home.
There are certain basics of baseball that everyone should know.
- Don't slide head-first
- Don't jump and throw at the same time
- Keep your eye on the ball
- Don't make the first or third out at third base
I think we can add "Don't send the runner 90 feet when the ball only has to travel 120 feet."
Nick Blackburn's afternoon wasn't nearly as terrible as it looked. Chicago made good contact on a select few pitches, resulting in four runs off three homers. In the eighth he collected a pair of ground ball outs before the next two hitters punched a couple through the left side. With runners on first and second and two down, Gardy went to Jose Mijares, who gave up the deciding run and third consecutive hit to Andruw Jones.
The Twins took an early 2-0 lead when Justin Morneau followed Joe Mauer's first double with a two-run single. In the third, Mauer's second double gave the Twins a 3-2 lead. Two batters later Michael Cuddyer plated Mauer to make it 4-2.
This was a terrible way to lose a game, but in the big picture the Twins still won the series by taking two of three. A 5-2 start isn't as good as a 6-1 start, but games like this happen over the course of a season.
#3: Michael Cuddyer (2-for-4, RBI, .015 WPA)
#2: Justin Morneau (1-for-4, 2 RBI, .017 WPA)
#1: Joe Mauer (2-for-4, 2 2B, RBI, 2 R, .068 WPA)
#1: Jose Mijares (0.0 IP, 1 H, -.279 WPA)
#2: Nick Punto (0-for-3, DP)
#3: Scott Ullger