Twins take advantage of mistakes as Francisco Liriano shines.
That, my friends, is how you beat Cliff Lee. On the rare occasions that he allows more than one base runner per inning, if he should then leave a fat changeup in your wheelhouse and you give it a ride, that's going to help. Delmon Young played pepper with the Twins bullpen in left-center field in the top of the second inning last night with two men on, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead on his 16th bomb of the season. Michael Cuddyer would turn on an inside fastball one inning later for a two-run double. And that would be enough.
Jim Thome made it 6-0 on a solo shot in the sixth, which was after the Twins had chased Lee but at least constituted one run against the Texas bullpen on the series. Liriano would cruise through the middle innings, and only ran into real trouble in the seventh when he faced more than four hitters in an inning for the first time in the game. Six Rangers came to bat and two scored, leaving the blemish on Liriano's line.
Vladimir Guerrero launched a two-run shot in the eighth off Matt Guerrier to make it 6-4 (really, did anyone seriously think Guerrero was done, because that was just silly), but Jesse Crain stopped the bleeding by coming in and striking out Bengie Molina on four straight sliders.
Yes. Jesse Crain. Four straight sliders.
A perfect ninth by Matt Capps sealed the win, and the Twins turn it around in the last game of the series to avoid the four-game sweep. This was a great series from a baseball fan's perspective, because even though the Twins only took this one game they weren't outclassed. They just got beat, and there's a difference. Congrats to the Rangers, who finally look like they have the talent it takes for October on all sides of the ball.
Hopefully, next time, the Twins come out on top. Notes, studs and duds after the jump.
Also, don't miss Stu's post below the recap!
- Jason Kubel made a nice diving/sliding catch to end the first inning. It wasn't graceful, but if he biffed it Rangers would have jumped out to a 1-0 lead, changing the course of the game.
- Liriano went for the throat last night, notching first-pitch strikes in 20 of his 27 batters faced.
- Par for the course: Liriano threw one changeup to left-handed hitters, going almost exclusively fastball (21) - slider (15).
- Not par for the course: Liriano threw more changeups (28) than fastballs (25) to right-handed hitters. The slider came out nine times.
- The Rangers were 0-for-7 against Liriano's slider in-play.
- Right-handed hitters did the damage against Lee last night, apart from Thome's homer. Lefties were just 2-for-10 on balls in play; righties 5-for-11, including three hits off Lee's slider.
- The Twins did an amazing job to NOT chase a lot of Lee's offerings, swinging and missing at just four balls outside of the strike zone.
Francisco Liriano: 7 IP, 5 H, 6 K, 1 BB, 2 R, .199 WPA
Delmon Young: 1-for-4, HR, 3 RBI, R, .175 WPA
Michael Cuddyer: 2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI, R, .189 WPA
Jason Kubel: 1-for-3, 2 BB, 2 R, .023 WPA
Matt Capps: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, .103 WPA
Matt Guerrier: 0.2 IP, HR, 2 H, BB, -.051 WPA