Outside of one frustrating trend, there were a lot of things to like about today's game.
Francisco Liriano had one hell of an afternoon. He balked in the tying run in the bottom of the second, which put the game at 2-2 and erased Orlando Hudson's two-run shot earlier in the inning. But then he showed the form he's displayed this season, finding a way to succeed even when he wasn't getting many borderline calls. He'd thrown 104 pitches through six innings, but still came out for the seventh to save a bullpen that's been a little short on reliable arms.
He threw another 19 pitches, put another zero on the board and ran his strikeout total to nine. He induced nine ground outs as opposed to just two through the air. His fastball was hard and between that and a typically killer slider, Liriano had Cleveland hitters tied up most of the afternoon.
His offense, meanwhile, gave him plenty of support. Hudson's early two-run shot was erased, but back-to-back solo shots by Jim Thome and Delmon Young in the fifth gave the lead back to Minnesota for good. Two more runs in the seventh and another pair in the ninth put the nail in the day's coffin for the Indians, and gave the Twins another series win.
One frustrating trend is Minnesota's inability to score with the bases loaded. Today the Twins were 6-for-16 (.375) with runners in scoring position, including 1-for-7 with the bases loaded. Well, 1-for-8 if you include Cuddyer reaching on an error that allowed a run in the ninth. The only Twin to come through with the bases loaded today?
The same Nick Punto who was 0-for-3 to start the game.
The same Nick Punto who was 0-for-4 yesterday after coming all the disabled list.
Yes, friends, just when you thought the Twins couldn't push a run across with the bases loaded even if the baseball gods personally came down and touched the baseballs themselves, LNP stroked a grounder through the right side to plate two runs and run the lead from two runs to four. By the way, Punto also made multiple backhanded stops moving toward the third base line and converted the outs. Nick finished the day with a pair of hits and three runs batted in.
I know it sucks, this whole struggling to get hits with RISP thing, but it will even out eventually. The reason the Twins run into so many bases loaded situations is because they have a lot of base runners period, and that's a good thing. At some point it will carry over.
In spite of it all, it's hard to really complain about it too much. The Twins continue to beat teams they should beat and they continue to score plenty of runs, in spite of a frustrating conversion rate. Studs, duds and notes after the jump!
- Wilson Ramos looked pretty damn good in his Major League debut. He collected four hits, including a double, and not once this afternoon did he look fooled by anything. And did you see the size of his forearms? He did a good job of keeping Liriano in check early in the game as well, when he was a bit all over the place. This was a fantastic debut.
- Michael Cuddyer threw out Grady Sizemore at the dish, with Ramos holding onto the ball and blocking the plate. It wasn't quite Span-to-Butera, where Butera was involved in a trainwreck and still came out on top, but it was still a play at the plate and it was still a great play.
- Span reached base four times today, twice on hits and twice on walks.
- Young, Thome, Hudson, Punto, Ramos, Span and Morneau all reached base at least twice today.
- Did I mention the Twins pounded Cleveland pitching today? 20 hits.
- Jesse Crain, Ron Mahay and Jon Rauch combined for two scoreless innings of relief.
#3: Nick Punto (2-for-4, R, 3 RBI, .106 WPA)
#2: Delmon Young (4-for-5, HR, BB, 2 R, RBI, .175 WPA)
#1: Francisco Liriano (7 IP, 8 H, 9 K, 3 BB, 3 R, .119 WPA)
Nobody. Even Cuddles, who was 0-for-6, gunned down a runner at the plate with a great throw.