Today's game was a microcosm of the season for the Minnesota Twins. The chances were there but weren't taken, and success was always within an inch but something inevitably went wrong.
A strong start by Nick Blackburn isn't going unnoticed. Seven and two third strong, just three runs and a no decision is probably as good as both the Twins (as far as Blackburn's performance) and Nick himself (he didn't get a loss) could hope for. In fact, Blackburn took advantage of the Blue Jays' aggression, tallying a career-high eight strikeouts.
But his offense, in spite of a two-run first inning and a solo home run by Michael Cuddyer in the sixth, couldn't give him the support he needed. Through eight innings the Twins managed twelve hits and a pair of walks, which you'd expect to score you (at least) five or six runs. Instead the Twins managed three. They needed an error to help in the first, and wasted chances with runners in scoring position in the bottom of the second, fourth, sixth, seventh and, yes, the bottom of the ninth.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth and the game tied at three, Justin Morneau timed Jon Rauch's fastball, taking his fourth consecutive four-seamer and peppering it off the wall in deep right-center field. It was a thing of beauty, and for a moment a Minnesota victory seemed imminent. Morneau waited for the pitch, recognized it, jumped on it and put a charge into the damn thing. Cheeks puffed out, a good stride, and the signature bat twirl over his head after contact...in that split second when they slowed it down on the replay, it looked like a pre-concussion Morneau.
But, just like it had been the previous four times in the game where the Twins blew RISP chances, the runner was stranded.
The bullpen started off strong. Matt Capps threw 1.1 innings of solid, scoreless baseball. And Glen Perkins pitched a scoreless tenth. Sadly, he allowed a single to lead off the eleventh and it all fell apart from there.
Jim Hoey sucks. I've never said that phrase, on this blog, about any Twins player before. But he does. Hoey is terrible, and I have to believe that if he's still on this roster tomorrow morning it's only because the Twins really feel like him being on the active roster makes it look like they didn't trade J.J. Hardy for a shit in a bucket.
Anyway, Hoey didn't record a single out. Jose Bautista, the first batter he faced, placed a ball into the right field seats to give the Jays a 5-3 lead. Poor Perkins got saddled with the loss as a result. But Hoey, mind you, went on to walk not one but the two next hitters. Jose Mijares, who couldn't record a damn out either, then went double-single-walk-walk...with the second walk scoring another run.
At 8-3 with the bases loaded and still nobody out the Twins went to their fourth reliever of the inning. Alex Burnett did an admirable job for the situation he was in, allowing just one additional run on a sacrifice fly to get us to our final score.
Michael Cuddyer - He cares. That's a big start. His home run and diving catch in the seventh were good, too. Three hits on the day.
Nick Blackburn - Gave us exactly what we needed - a long start and not many runs allowed.
Matt Capps & Glen Perkins - Solid relief.
Denard Span - Two hits and a walk. He made a real effort to make that catch in the eighth.
Almost everyone else
- Obviously if Span makes that catch in the eight we're going into the bottom of the frame up 3-2 and it's a different ballgame. But it's hard to put the onus of anything on him considering not just the effort on the play, but also considering how shit the offense was most of the afternoon.
- Joe Nathan was unavailable today, but apparently so was Kevin Slowey. I'm not sure why, although Dick & Bert speculated it may have had something to do with how he felt. Listen, if he can't pitch, put him back on the disabled list. I know that there aren't many arms in Rochester who could probably help the Twins right now, but a guy who can't pitch is guaranteed not to help.
- At one point today Blackburn retired 17 in a row.
- I'll be honest. Right now I'm not concerned about the worst record in the Major Leagues. I'm concerned about winning a game...just one game...that puts a stop to this losing streak. It's all well and good to look to the future, but you need to take that first step before anything else, and right now the Twins just keep finding ways to look worse.