This series is beginning to look a lot like the series earlier this month in Tampa Bay. Four game series at a playoff contender, a lack of offense and a few miscues combine to put the Twins in an 0-2 hole. Last night in Arlington, Michael Young's two out single in the bottom of the seventh put the Texas Rangers up for good, as their bullpen held the Twins hitless over 2+ innings in a 4-3 victory. Twins starter Carl Pavano was solid, pitching an 8 inning complete game, but he was hurt by a number of defensive mistakes and missed opportunities, which I'll cover in more detail below The Chicago White Sox defeated the Baltimore Orioles 7-5 last night, as a result the Minnesota lead is now 3.5 games in the AL Central Division.
I'll describe a few key moments, plus studs and duds after the jump.
This one started off well enough in the first inning, with sharp Orlando Hudson and Joe Mauer singles. After Jason Kubel flew out, Michael Cuddyer blooped a double just in front of a diving center fielder Julio Borbon to put the Twins up 2-0. But the lead wouldn't last long as...
Moment the First
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Josh Hamilton led off with a slicing home run to left center field to bring Texas within one run. Pavano followed with two quick outs, bringing up Bengie Molina, who hit a fly ball to right center, between Denard Span and Jason Kubel. For some reason, even though Kubel called it, he pulled up at the last second and the ball dropped for a double to extend the inning, and Texas took advantage. Mitch Moreland hit a sharp ground ball in the hole between first and second, Hudson made a nice diving snag, but his throw short-hopped Michael Cuddyer at first, putting runners on first and third. Pavstache had a chance to get out of the inning even with the mistakes, but Andres Blanco hit a ground rule double to right and put the Rangers up 3-2. The lesson? Don't give good teams extra outs. Fortunately, Pavano got out of the inning with no further damage.
Moment the Second
In the top of the sixth inning, Hudson led off with a ground rule double down the left field line. Joe Mauer grounded to third baseman Michael Young, who looked Hudson back to second and threw off line to first for his second error of the game. At this point, the Twins had runners on first and second with no one out, a great chance to tie the game. Kubel hit a high, deep fly ball to the warning track for the first out, advancing Hudson to third. But this brought up Michael "GIDP" Cuddyer, who promptly grounded into an inning ending 6-3 double play. The lesson? Take advantage of the opportunities when a team like the Rangers gives you extra outs.
Moment the Third
This was probably the most painful, and it wasn't all the Twins fault. Delmon Young led off the top of the seventh with an infield single, which Danny Valencia followed with a perfect hit-and-run line drive to right. First and third, no outs. Alexi Casilla smashed a long fly ball off the right field fence to tie the game at 3, missing a home run by about six inches. Those six inches would turn out to be costly, as Drew Butera came to the plate with runners on second and third, no one out. At this point, the announcers and much of the Texas coaching staff probably expected Drew Butera to lay down a squeeze bunt. Instead, he got into an 0-2 hole and the bunt was off the table. Butera managed to smash a line drive right at the drawn-in Michael Young at third for the first out. With the infield continuing to play in, Denard Span grounded to first baseman Moreland, who made a perfect throw home to Molina. Valencia made a perfect hook slide to barely avoid the tag. The only problem was that home plate umpire Jim Wolf didn't see it that way, and he called Valencia out. And with two outs, Hudson grounded out to end the inning.
Texas went up 4-3 in the seventh, the two Darrens (Oliver and O'Day) got Texas through the 8th inning, and closer Neftali Feliz skated through the ninth, helped by two nice catches on deep fly balls and "pinch hitter" Matt Tolbert (hitting for Drew Butera, so I guess that's an upgrade...kind of) ending the game with a strikeout after Jim Thome was hit by a pitch.
- Carl Pavano: 8 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO. He was pretty good out there, one of the runs definitely should not have been earned, but he kept the Twins right there and saved the bullpen.
- Alexi Casilla: 1-3, 2B, RBI. Missed a three run homer by less than a foot. Plus he played very good defense at shortstop.
- Denard Span and Jason Kubel: Combined 0-8, 6 LOB. Plus the misplay in right center cost a run.
- Michael Cuddyer: 1-4, 2 RBI. Yes, he drove in the first two runs, but on a bloop to center. And his double play was a killer, not to mention failing to dig out Hudson's throw probably cost a run defensively.
- Arlington Right Field: What happened to the jet stream we used to see in this ballpark? The Twins hit four or five deep fly balls to right - right center, none left the yard.
- Home Plate Umpire Jim Wolf: It doesn't matter if the ball beats the runner home, the catcher has to put the tag down. But it was a VERY close play.