Last night in Anaheim, the Twins lineup hit Angels starter Joe Saunders early and often, as Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and J.J. Hardy all hit home runs to lead the Twins to a 5-3 victory and even their record at 1-1. But the story of last night was new Twins closer Jon Rauch. With perennial All Star closer Joe Nathan out for the season, the burning question for this team is whether the Twins can recover. In his first save opportunity of the season, Rauch was asked to close out a two run lead against a pesky Angels lineup. About 30 seconds later, Rauch went strikeout - popup - strikeout for a perfect 9th. A very good start.
The Twins bats made it clear from the top of the first that tonight was a different ballgame. Where it seemed leadoff hitter Denard Span was down 0-2 before stepping into the batter's box Monday night, he started the game with a five pitch walk. After Orlando Hudson bunted an ugly line drive to first, Joe Mauer nailed a Joe Saunders fastball over the center field fence to put the Twins up 2-0. Singles by Morneau and Michael Cuddyer along with a Jason Kubel walk loaded the bases for Delmon Young, who drove in Morneau with a sacrifice fly to right field. 3-0 Twins. After the first, the Twins bats didn't hit the Angels too hard, going 6 for their last 27 at bats. But a high Justin Morneau home run to right field in the third and a J.J. Hardy blast to center in the fourth was all the Twins would need.
Twins starter Nick Blackburn wasn't sharp coming out of the gate last night, but he battled. He started off the bottom of the first by walking Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu. But a Torii Hunter double play and Hideki Matsui strikeout got Blackburn out of the inning. At the end of the day, Blackburn's line was about where you would expect, except for the walks: 6.2 IP, 8 H, 1 HR, 4 BB, 4 SO. He gave up a bunch of hits, got out of a few jams, and got hit hard once in the fifth when Torii Hunter hit a long two run home run to right center. Aside from the control issues, Blackburn really had the sinker working last night, as he gave up more ground balls than fly balls (11 to 4) to limit the damage. It just seemed like he didn't know where the ball was going out of his hand.
In addition to Rauch, the Twins bullpen was solid last night. A Torii Hunter double chased Blackburn in the 7th, but Brian Duensing shut the door, getting Hideki Matsui to ground out to end the threat. Matt Guerrier pitched a perfect 8th (popup and two fly balls), then it was Rauch time. All in all, a good game.
- Jon Rauch: 1 IP, 2 SO, SV. And most importantly, he pounded the strike zone.
- Joe Mauer: 1-4, HR, 3 RBI. The two run home run in the first was key.
- Duensing / Guerrier: 1.1 perfect innings got us to Rauch.
- Justin Morneau: 2-3, HR, RBI, BB
- Orlando Hudson: 0-5, R, SO. One of the ugliest bunts you'll ever see.
Nick Punto: 0-3, BB. Surprised a few of us when he started. Clearly not a platoon with Brendan Harris.
- Bobby Abreu: Ever since Mike Everitt called a high strike (correct, according to the pitch tracker) in the first, Abreu was whining. Then, Abreu argued after a swinging third strike in the 7th.