It may be just one win, but 4-6 sure feels a lot better than 3-7 and a three game losing streak, doesn't it? Twins starter Brian Duensing was solid tonight, giving up three runs on eight hits over six innings. But after a comebacker hit Duensing in the shin, knocking him out of a 3-3 tie game with runners on first and third with no one out, the bullpen absolutely shut the door on the Kansas City Royals. Jose Mijares came in an struck out Alex Gordon with four fastballs. Then Gardy played the matchups, bringing in Matt Capps to face Billy Butler, probably the one truly scary Royals offensive threat. Capps got Butler to pop up for the second out, then he struck out Jeff Francouer looking to end the inning. Eleven pitches, all fastballs, ten strikes to get out of the jam.
The bullpen dominance didn't end there. After a quick 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh, Capps came back out and posted another zero with a 1-2-3 top of the eighth. Joe Nathan dominated the top of the ninth, three up three down (really looking confident and throwing more gas than we've seen so far this year), bringing up the bottom of the Twins order in the ninth. After a Danny Valencia walk and Luke Hughes strikeout, the crowd erupted when Jim Thome was announced as a pinch hitter for Alexi Casilla. (Whether the cheering was for Thome, or because Casilla wouldn't be batting, I don't know). Thome lined a single just over the second baseman's glove, which would have advanced Valencia (off and running on a full count), except that he had to stay near first in case Chris Getz snared Thome's liner. This would prove costly, as Denard Span followed with a long fly ball that would have scored Valencia easily from third, but instead only got him to third. Joe Mauer had a chance to walk off with a win, but his line drive to right field stayed up just enough for Francouer to end the inning. So it was off to extra innings. Dusty Hughes managed a 1-2-3 inning of his own, highlighted by a catch, diving off the mound to catch a "line drive" from Alex Gordon. Which brings us to...
The bottom of the tenth. Fortunately for the Twins, after Tim Lincecum look-alike (windup and all) LHP Tim Collins struck out Justin Morneau looking, the Royals brought in Robinson Tejeda, who promptly gave up aline single to Delmon Young, walked Michael Cuddyer on four pitches, and got behind Jason Kubel 3-1. The Bearded One crushed a Tejeda fastball about 400 feet to right center, and while Target Field was able to hold the drive, right fielder Jeff Francouer was not, as he dropped the ball. But the runners were tagging, so the bases were loaded for Danny Valencia. And Valencia delivered, lining a game winning single to right.
Studs, duds and notes follow after the jump, I'm going to savor this one for a while.
- STUD: Michael Cuddyer, 4-4 with a walk. All sharply hit singles, he was on top of the Royals pitching.
- STUD: The Bullpen, Mijares, Capps, Nathan and Hughes. Twelve up and twelve down. They really attacked the Royals hitters tonight.
- STUD: Luke Hughes, 2-4 2 RBI. Two run single in the fourth put the Twins up 4-3.
- DUD: I don't feel like it tonight.
- Alexi Casilla was picked off by Jeff Francis in the third, but he smartly ran 3-4 feet to the left of the base path, right in front of Billy Butler's throw, which sailed past second allowing Casilla to score the Twins first run later in the inning. I have to give credit to Roy Smalley, who broke down the play, and was right down the base line with immediate analysis. Good stuff.
- Scott Baker was probably wondering where was the bullpen on Sunday. Baker left the sixth inning with runners on second and third, but Jeff Manship allowed both inherited runners to score.