I was wrong about the Twins scoring more than five runs for the first time all season. But I'll take it. The Twins won, forcing a series split and heading back to Minnesota after a 3-5 road trip. All things considered, this road trip could have been a lot worse. More on the game after the jump, but here's hoping this is the start of something good.
Scott Baker was incredible on the night, throwing seven shutout innings and not allowing a base runner until the ninth batter he faced. Overall he granted Baltimore just four hits, although one of them was a gift to Vladimir Guerrero. With one out in the fourth inning, Guerrero smashed Baker's slider into right field. Jason Kubel's only route was straight over, and he got there in time to make the catch...but as he reached across his body to make a back-handed grab the ball hit the heel of his glove and bounced away. Guerrero was credited with a double, which is inconceiveable. It should have been an error on Kubel.
Baker's strong night lowers his season ERA to 3.24, and marks his second start in a row where he put down some remarkable results. His nine strikeouts were the most he had since striking out 12 Rockies last June.
Offensively it was another unremarkable night for the Twins. While they picked up nine hits nobody took a walk. Minnesota started four players with batting averages under .200. Of course, one of those players was Jim Thome.
Thome kicked off the scoring back in the second inning by working a strong plate appearance against Jeremy Guthrie, before murdering a changeup into the seats in right-center field. It was Thome's 591st career home run, and some Orioles fan was trying to convince his wife to throw it back. I hope she didn't, because that's just stupid. You just caught a home run ball from a future Hall of Famer, and throwing the ball back onto the field is a useless gesture that nobody will remember in 20 seconds. Keep the ball, show it to your grandchildren. Because one day they'll be able to show their kids. Seriously: people will remember Jim Thome. Keep the damn ball.
In the sixth Thome struck again. He put good wood on the ball all night, and on this occasion smacked a line drive into center field to score Alexi Casilla from second base. Michael Cuddyer, who'd been hit in the back in the previous at-bat, made it to third on the play but neither Danny Valencia nor Luke Hughes could drive him in.
But Cuddyer did cross the plate in the eighth after blasting his second homer of the year and giving the Twins a 3-0 lead. Mike Gonzalez left a hanging slider way too far up in the zone. Cuddyer jumped all over it and hit the longest home run I remember seeing him hit, because that sucker must have landed 20 rows up. A Twins fan caught this one, by the way, which is great.
The bullpen wasn't quite as hot as Baker. Jose Mijares faced three batters and walked one, which isn't terrible, but Jim Hoey lasted a combined two batters and five pitches before getting pulled. The base runner Mijares put on had scored, cutting the Twins lead to 3-1, but Glen Perkins threw one pitch and retired Luke Scott to end the threat. Matt Capps allowed one hit in the ninth, but successfully slammed the door for his third save of the season.
Again the offense struggled, but last night they came away with a win. Right now, any win is a good one. Hopefully we're one game closer to getting this offense back on track, and when the Twins face off against the Indians tonight maybe they'll find a way to break out in a big way. I'd love to see the Twins score 20 runs this weekend.
- Baker did really well at working ahead last night, scoring first-pitch strikes on 18 of 26 occasions (69%).
- RIght handers were just 2-for-14 against Baker, and both hits came off sliders.
- Baker's overall grade last night, courtesy of Inside Edge, was an A. Of the 23 pitcher categories, he earned an A+ in 14 of them. He earned a solid A in three others.
- Even though he didn't give up the hit that allowed his base runner to score, it was the first earned run charged to Jose Mijares this season. With all of the walks he's given up this season, it's long overdue.
- Perkins threw one pitch last night, and that was his entire evening. Not a bad night. You have to hand it to him: he's been one of the few relievers who's been consistently pulling his weight. Keep proving me wrong, Perk.
- The Twins hit five home runs on this road trip (two from Cuddyer and Kubel, one from Thome). That's a big improvement for this team.
A short bench