With Scott Baker, it always seems to be the one bad inning that does most of the damage. Through three innings, Baker was cruising with three strikeouts and a couple hits allowed. But in the fourth, the Brewers went double-single-homerun-double to score three quick runs and tie the game. After a popup and fly out and pitcher Chris Narveson coming to the plate, it looked like Baker would get out of the inning without further damage. The baseball gods thought otherwise, as Narveson blooped a single to left and put the Brewers up for good.
Yet again, the Twins had plenty of chances and made the least of them throughout the game. Narveson was shaky in the first inning, starting the game HBP-Walk-Walk to load the bases for Justin Morneau and the heart of the order. Three straight ground ball singles by Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young later, and the Twins were up 3-0 with no one out and the bases loaded. But Danny Valencia chased the first pitch and popped out, Nick Punto struck out looking, and Baker grounded out weakly to the pitcher. Six straight batters reach base, yet the Twins manage to score the minimum number of runs they could possibly score, so frustrating. After the first, Narveson settled in and held the Twins scoreless over the next four innings, giving up only two singles and erasing one (Orlando Hudson) with a pickoff.
Baker gave up another run in the sixth on an Alcides Escobar bloop single to right (another recurring theme), putting the Twins down 5-3. Alex Burnett relieved Baker in the seventh and immediately gave up a home run and two doubles to extend the lead to four. Fortunately, Ron Mahay got his doppelganger Jim Edmonds to fly out and Jesse Crain ended the inning with a popout to keep the Twins within one swing of a tie game. In the eighth, the bats woke up against an ineffective Todd Coffey with a Morneau double to the gap in right center, Cuddyer walk and Young hitting a double over center fielder Edmond's head to score two. Suddenly, the Twins were within two and threatening against a weak bullpen. Blood was in the water, and Jim Thome was coming to the plate. The last time we saw Thome, he hit a monster home run off Jose Contreras in the Twins 13-10 comeback victory over the Phillies. But last night, no such miracle was in order, as Thome popped out and Jason Kubel broke his bat and hit a weak liner to the pitcher, doubling Young at second in a play that would have ended up a triple play if not for the out earlier.
In the ninth, Mauer singled to give Morneau an opportunity to tie the game, but Justin struck out chasing a slider to end the game. With the loss, the Twins again fail to get to 12 games above .500, dropping to 40-30 on the year. The Detroit Tigers were pounded 14-6 (Justin Verlander 2 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 BB) and remain 1.5 games back in the AL Central. The Chicago White Sox win their seventh straight, 9-6 over the Atlanta Braves to climb within 4.5 games of the division lead. Perhaps this will be the three team race everyone expected before the season. In the meantime, enjoy the World Cup this morning. My prediction: the U.S. scores early, gives up the equalizer midway through the second and Landon Donovan scores in the last 10 minutes to put us through to the elimination round. And England does the same but fails to score late, eliminated with a 1-1 draw. The London tabloids (and Jesse) have a field day.
Studs and duds after the jump.
- Delmon Young: 2-4, 2 RBI. Contributed +1.77 runs (-0.47 running) offensively. Now batting .310/.346/.507 with 45 RBI.
- Justin Morneau: 2-5, R, 2 RBI. Contributed +0.97 runs offensively. Unfortunately, we'll remember the final strikeout.
- Ron Mahay: The LOOGY did his job last night. Finally.
- Danny Valencia: 0-2, BB. Contributed -0.96 runs offensively. His swing looks like a limp noodle again.
- Alex Burnett: 0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BB. There's a big difference between 2 and 4 runs down going into the 8th.
- Scott Baker: 6 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 0BB, 7 SO. Actually, it wasn't that bad a performance from Baker. He was hurt by the three run homer, which McGehee hit the opposite way on a pitch at the knees, and 3-4 bloop hits. But five runs is five runs.
- Jason Kubel: 0-2. Contributed -0.72 runs in two late at bats. The double play to end the eighth killed our chances.