With Ubaldo Jimenez and his 12-1 record coming up on Thursday, the Twins needed to take game two against the Colorado Rockies to insure against a second straight interleague series loss at home. And Scott Baker responded in a huge way last night, turning in his best start of the season, pitching 7 shutout innings giving up 2 hits and 1 walk with a career high 12 strikeouts, not allowing a single Rockies player to even reach second base. Baker started strong, striking out 10 batters in the first five innings, and he pounded the strike zone with 82 strikes out of 108 total pitches.
On the offensive side, the Twins did just enough to win, scoring both runs in the second inning. Michael Cuddyer walked to lead off the inning, Jason Kubel followed with a line drive to right, and Delmon Young was hit by a fastball to load the bases. At this point, considering the Twins' problems with the bases loaded, no one would have been surprised by a scoreless inning. But Danny Valencia delivered a ground ball single to score Cuddyer and put the Twins up 1-0. Nick Punto followed with a grounder up the middle to score Kubel, but Young was thrown out at home, shifting momentum in a big way. Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin responded by striking out Denard Span and getting Matt Tolbert to ground out and end the inning. From that point on, Chacin was in control, benefiting from double plays by Cuddyer, Valencia and Justin Morneau the next three innings.
After Baker left the game, Gardy went to the cookbook, bringing in Matt Guerrier for the 8th inning. Unfortunately, Guerrier was not sharp. A double, hit by pitch and sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out. With lefty Carlos Gonzalez coming up, Jose Mijares entered the game. A Joe Mauer passed ball cut the Twins lead in half, with a runner remaining on third base, quite a tense situation. But Mijares more than did his job, getting a Gonzalez popup and striking out Todd Helton (not nearly the hitter he used to be) to end the inning. Closer Jon Rauch went 1-2-3 in the 9th to end the game, and the Twins are back to 10 games over .500 at 37-27.
A full accounting of runs, studs, duds and notes follow after the jump. In the meantime, enjoy this afternoon's game.
Offensively, the top of the Twins order did very little, while the bottom of the order carried the water. Young's throw out at home was the single biggest swing in runs, as were the double plays in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
- Scott Baker: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 12 SO. Baker was a big dog last night. Hopefully this will be the start of a hot streak for him.
- Danny Valencia and Nick Punto: both 2-3, RBI. Congrats to Valencia on his first extra base hit, a double in the 8th.
- Jose Mijares: 0.2 IP, 0 R, SO. He shut down the lefties to end the Rockies' only real threat of the game.
- Jon Rauch: 1 IP, 0 R, SV. In his last 8 appearances, Rauch has given up only one run, struck out 7, and walked none as he's saved seven straight.
- Matt Guerrier: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, HBP. A rare shaky outing for our primary setup guy. With his loss against the Braves, this is two straight poor outings for Guerrier.
- The top of the order: A combined 3-14 and -3.30 runs for the 1-4 hitters.
- Patrick Reusse asks why Brendan Harris is even on the roster. Yup.
- Kyle Gibson was pounded again last night, giving up 10 hits and 7 runs in only four innings. It sure looks like he's hit the AA wall with three straight shellings.
- It looks like Orlando Hudson may not be ready until Friday. The question now is which week...