This one wasn't pretty, but after an ugly six game losing streak, the Twins will take a win any way they can get it. Base running was the key to a quick start from the offense, as three stolen bases from Ben Revere and Jason Repko in the first and second innings helped the Twins open up a 3-0 lead.In Repko's case, he was picked off first base by Dodgers starter Ted Lilly, but he just beat the Casey Blake throw to second base and position himself to score on Revere's second single of the game.
Brian Duensing was solid through three innings, facing the minimum nine batters thanks to a 6-4-3 double play. But he had trouble hitting his spots. leaving the ball over the plate for a couple long fly balls in the first, and a Matt Kemp line drive right at third baseman Danny Valencia in the second. Duensing's lack of command caught up with him in the fourth, as he led off the inning by walking Tony Gwynn Jr. and Casey Blake with the heart of the Dodgers order coming up. But thanks to a nice ranging play from Alexi Casilla, a Matt Kemp sacrifice fly was the only damage done.
In the fifth, after Rene Rivera singled in Repko to open a 4-1 lead, Duensing gave it right back. With one out, Aaron Miles hit a first pitch slider just over the left field fence for his first home run. A single and two more walks loaded the bases with two outs, and Andre Ethier grounded a game tying two run single just to the right of a diving Alexi Casilla. Fortunately, in the bottom of the fifth, Luke Hughes quickly put the Twin back in front with a two run home run that just cleared the garden in left field.
From that point on, the bullpen did its job, pitching four scoreless innings to close out the game. Things got a little hairy in the seventh after a one out Jamey Carroll single, Glen Perkins relieved Alex Burnett and Tony Gwynn hit a weak ground ball that Tsuyoshi Nishioka charged and threw to first. Gwynn was called out, but replays showed that he beat the throw. The next batter, Casey Blake singled to left field and Jason Repko made a strong throw to nail Carroll in a very close play at home. It wasn't clear from watching the replay, but Rivera tagged Carroll's outstretched arm as he slide into home. In any case, these were two calls that easily could have gone the other way and allowed the Dodgers to tie the game or take a lead. Instead, Joe Nathan and Matt Capps got through the eighth and ninth to close out the game and end the six game losing streak. Notes, studs and duds are after the jump, everyone enjoy today's rubber game!
While I can't fault Casilla's effort on Ethier's single in the fourth, heck he's been getting to just about everything lately, it appeared to be a case of the pitcher and his fielders not being on the same page. Casilla was playing Ethier to pull, and Duensing attacked Ethier with three straight sliders. In the end, the ground ball looked to me like it would have been in reach if Casilla was playing Ethier straight up. Then again, Ethier is known as a pull hitter, so maybe it's just luck.
Joe Nathan had really good stuff last night. His fastball sat at 93-94 with movement and command, and he threw it 17 of 19 pitches, striking out two in a scoreless eighth inning.
Nishioka looks terrible at the plate right now. I don't care how many times FSN shows a side by side comparison of Ichiro and Nishioka's swings, he's just not doing anything. At this point, the Twins have to consider optioning Nishioka to Rochester and bring up Trevor Plouffe, who is raking.
Nishioka hasn't been much better in the field. After two errors on Monday, in the eighth inning last night he fielded a Juan Uribe ground ball and underhanded to Casilla to start a double play. But he was too far away, so he left Casilla out to dry and he threw high to first. Nishioka needs to get that ball to Casilla more quickly for the turn.
Matt Capps made a nice play in the ninth, diving off the mound to his right to field a swinging bunt from Dioner Navarro and getting the out at first. Check out the replay, it wasn't graceful but it got the job done. Kind of like the rest of the game.
- Ben Revere: 2-3, 2 R, RBI, 2 SB. +1.15 batting, +0.43 running. And he drew a balk from Kenley Jansen in the sixth. Really provided a spark out there.
- Jason Repko: 2-3, 2 R, SB. +1.03 batting, +0.40 running.
- Luke Hughes: 1-4, HR, 2 RBI. +0.64 batting. The two run home run put the Twins up for good. His overall run contribution would have been better, but he didn't help himself popping out to end the first inning with runners on first and third (-0.61 runs), flying out to end the third inning with a runner on second (-0.35), and a leadoff ground out in the eighth (-0.24 runs). This nearly canceled out his two run home run (+1.84 runs) in the fifth, at least from a run contribution standpoint.
- Joe Nathan: 1 IP, 0 R, 2 SO. As I noted above, he had good stuff out there.
- Brian Duensing: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 SO, 1 HR. Just an off night for Duensing. He wasn't terrible, but he can't afford to walk nearly a batter an inning.
- Tsuyoshi Nishioka: 0-4. -1.21 runs batting. He's now batting .210.
- Michael Cuddyer: 0-4. -0.83 runs batting. He'd been red hot, so he was due for an 0-fer.