For a while today, Carl Pavano pitched pretty well. Other than a Jeff Franceour solo home run in the second, he was in control. The Royals weren't hitting him particularly hard, and although he wasn't getting many swings and misses it seemed like this was his game. And then Alexi Casilla screwed it up.
With two out in the fourth and Billy Butler on second base, Kila Ka'aihue singled up the middle. Casilla got a glove on the ball but couldn't field it cleanly. Now, while he didn't make the final out of the inning here, his ability to knock the ball down at least stopped Bulter from scoring. That was good. But when the next batter, Matt Treanor, squibbed a ball that Casilla charged on (while calling off Danny Valencia), Casilla didn't field the ball cleanly and was unable to make a throw. Butler's run made it 2-0, and it was only just the beginning of an afternoon that would culminate, for Pavano, in this:
Now, I totally get Pavano's frustration here. And part of me is glad he let this out in public. Maybe it will help certain players focus, seeing him that upset. Maybe, I don't know. But there is something kind of funny about it. Not just an adult throwing a tantrum, because like I said I totally get it. It's the fact that a very calm Scott Baker, who no doubt feels every once of pain that Pavano is venting, quietly just gets out of the way of Pavano, his bat and the garbage can.
More on the game after the jump.
To be fair to Casilla, he momentarily redeemed himself in the top half of the very next inning. After Drew Butera drew a two-out walk, Casilla slashed a 1-1 Luke Hochevar fastball past the diving Ka'aihue. Butera had enough time to chug all the way around the bases and score, and Casilla ended up at third base. It was a nice moment, because there's no doube in my mind that Alexi has been dying to prove himself and contribute in a positive way. He's been pressing, just like everyone else on this team, and for a moment it was great to be able to cheer for something he'd done.
But right away in the bottom of the fifth, he'd give back that goodwill. Not on his own, mind you. Mitch Maier and Mike Aviles kicked off the inning by standing on the corners with nobody out. But then Pavano had Aviles picked off first base.
All players involved kept a close eye on Maier to make sure he wouldn't break for home. But Justin Morneau didn't run Aviles far enough off first base, and when it was Casilla's turn to handle the ball it was like he'd lost all sense of timing on the play. Between watching Maier and half-heartedly chasing Aviles, his throw back to first base was far too late for any kind of a tag. It was the 27,000th blown pickoff the Twins have run in 2011. Congratulations, guys. Next week you'll be sitting in on a bunch of 10-year olds as they run hot box drills on the practice field behind their middle school.
So not only should Aviles have been out here, but when he tried to steal second base Butera and Hughes actually had him gunned down. But second base umpire Marty Foster missed Hughes' tag of Aviles' right hand. And of course Aviles would eventually come around to score. Of course it's frustrating that the umpire blew this call, but if the Twins had been able to execute baseball 101 just moments earlier he'd already have been off the bases anyway.
Regardless, it was 5-1 by the time Pavano got the Twins out of the debacle.
The bottom of the sixth got off to another rough start, with a double and triple sandwiching a groundout. Maier's triple finally chased Pavano, who quickly followed up with the scene you saw above. Glen Perkins came on and, while he allowed the run on second to score, did seal the inning up quickly. Perkins also pitched a scoreless seventh. But Dusty Hughes, who continues to be another relief pitcher who is astonishingly terrible, gave up a three-run bomb in the eighth to let the Royals into double-digit runs. Again.
On the plus side there was Perkins, of course. And Casilla tripled again late in the game, scoring this time, and he even walked in the ninth. Jason Kubel was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, and continues to be the only Twins hitter who isn't living in the hellish reality of 2011.
Best of all, Justin Morneau blasted his first home run of the season. Obviously it's his first since going down with his concussion last season, and after seeing him struggle through April in terms of power it was nice to see him turn on a ball the way he did. He recognized the pitch, knew where it was heading, compacted his swing accordingly and blasted the ball just a foot or two over the right field wall. Congrats, Justin.
Who's ready for the White Sox?