Two or three inches. That's the difference between Kevin Slowey hitting the corners and getting a bit too much of the plate. Even though Slowey managed to get through four scoreless innings last night at Target Field, it was clear that the Chicago White Sox were seeing the ball well, as multiple batters hit long fly balls right at Twins outfielders. In fact, of the thirteen batters faced by Slowey during those four innings, nine hit fly balls (two for base hits), two popped out, and only one batter grounded out or struck out. Slowey's always been a fly ball pitcher (career 33-47 GD%-FB%), but sooner or later those fly balls were going to start falling with runners on base.
The Twins threatened in the first, coming up empty when Michael Cuddyer grounded out with two runners on to end the inning. In the fourth inning, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau began the inning with back to back singles, but Cuddyer grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to reduce the threat. After a Jason Kubel two out walk (it was clear Freddy Garcia wanted nothing to do with him), Delmon Young hit a clutch two run double down the right field line to score Mauer. Unfortunately, another poor third base coaching decision against Chicago resulted in Kubel being thrown out by 20 feet at home plate. End of inning, Twins lead 1-0.
Then came the fifth inning, where the wheels fell of for Slowey. Alex Rios led off the inning by lining a single to right, then he stole second base and advanced to third when Orlando Hudson inexplicably decided to tag Rios before Mauer's throw reached his glove. Slowey bore down, striking out Carlos Quentin on three pitches, walking Mark Teahen on seven pitches, then striking out Gordon Beckham on a good slider away after pounding him inside with the previous five pitches. Slowey was one out away from getting out of the inning when Alexei Ramirex came to the plate. After starting Ramirez 3-0, Slowey grooved a fastball right down the middle and Ramirez didn't miss, driving a two run double deep to left center field and putting the White Sox up 2-1. Unfortunately, the damage didn't stop there. Juan Pierre beat out an infield single up the middle that Orlando Hudson knocked down, but gold old A.J. Pierzynski doubled in Ramirez and Pierre and Andruw Jones singled in Pierzynski to extend the lead to 5-1.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Twins mounted another threat, with Nick Punto and Denard Span one out singles, but Freddy Garcia struck out Orlando Hudson and Joe Mauer to end the inning. In the end, it was just one of those nights, as Morneau led off the sixth with a solo home run, one batter too late, providing the final score in a 5-2 Twins loss. Today, the Twins look to avoid a two game sweep at the hands of the White Sox before heading on a tough east coast road trip Thursday. Studs, duds and notes follow after the jump.
- Justin Morneau: 2-3, HR, RBI, BB. Contributed +1.45 runs offensively.
Alex Burnett: 3.0 IP, 2 H, 3 SO. Kept the Twins in the ball game after Slowey blew up in the fifth. Burnett has been a nice surprise this season.
- Delmon Young: 1-4, 2B, RBI. Contributed +0.68 runs offensively with the clutch two out double.
- Joe Mauer: 3-4, R: Contributed +0.32 runs, hit three nice line drive singles (+0.60 runs batting), but with the foot he was largely stationary on the base paths, contributing -0.28 runs.
- Kevin Slowey: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, BB, 3 SO. Ended up with 2 ground balls versus 14 fly balls, did not have good command in the strike zone.
- Michael Cuddyer: 0-4, 5 LOB. Contributed -1.89 runs offensively. Cuddyer is really scuffling out there, 5 for his last 36, as his batting average has dropped to .276 from .327 at the start of May.
- Orlando Hudson: 0-4, SO, Error. Contributed -1.36 runs offensively. Had a really bad strikeout against Garcia in the fifth. Just doesn't look right out there now, which is not good with Hardy on the DL.
- Jason Kubel: 1-3, BB, SO, out on base paths (OOBP). Contributed -1.08 runs offensively, mostly due to -1.01 runs on the base paths due to being thrown out at home in the fourth. Scott Ullger deserves most of the blame here for sending Kubel home.
- Another RISP Fail, as the Twins went 1 for 8. Chicago was much better, going 5 for 15, with all five hits in the fifth inning.
Ron Mahay continues to have success as the Twins' LOOGY, striking out Mark Teahen to end the eighth inning. He's now pitched 9.1 innings and given up five hits, walking one and striking out 10.
- After the game, Ozzie Guillen tweeted "Target fields best stadium in the american league". Ugh.
- The ball didn't carry very well in the 45 degree air last night. Justin Morneau crushed a ball to the warning track in center in the eighth, but it died just short of a two run home run that would have tied the game 5-4.
- In Joe C's recap, there was a pretty scary quote from Gardy defending Ullger's decision to send Kubel home: "They've got to make a good relay to get him," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They hit the first guy, and then it wasn't that tough of a throw to get him on the second [throw]. You don't get too many two-out base hits -- not very many teams do -- so with two outs, you take more gambles." Sorry, but some recent poor performances with RISP is not a valid excuse for terrible base running decisions.
- Kevin Slowey now has only one quality start in seven starts this season. His 4-3 record is deceiving, he's not in form yet.
- According to Joe C, J.J. Hardy expects a quick return from the DL. Apparently, Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes were considered, but the Twins wanted Plouffe to play every day and Tolbert can play more positions (i.e., shortstop, gritty little guy) than Hughes.