Through eight innings, the Twins offense managed a total of only four base runners as Cleveland Indians starter Justin Masterson posted zero after zero with his array of hard sinking fastballs. But in the bottom of the ninth inning off All Star closer Chris Perez, with the Twins down 1-0 and one out, Joe Mauer walked, Michael Cuddyer singled to left field, and Jim Thome was intentionally walked to load the bases. Up came Danny Valencia, whom you may have heard was a college roommate of Perez ten years ago at the University of Miami. Expect Valencia to have bragging rights for quite a while, as he lined a walk-off single to left field to score Mauer and Cuddyer. With the victory, the Twins are now six games behind the division leading Indians (who are tied with the Detroit Tigers) with a chance to cut the deficit to five this afternoon at Target Field.
Twins starter Francisco Liriano was solid, but not sharp, as he gave up one run off four hits and four walks with five strikeouts over six innings. From the first batter, it was apparent that home plate umpire Alan Porter was not going to have a pitcher-friendly strike zone, but Liriano managed to escape trouble repeatedly, stranding eight of the nine Indians batters to reach base. Fortunately, Phil Dumatrait, Matt Capps and Glen Perkins held the Indians down with three scoreless innings in relief of Liriano, keeping the Twins in the game and setting up the walk-off win.
Notes, studs and duds after the jump. Enjoy the afternoon game, everyone stay cool!
- Danny Valencia: 1-4, 2 RBI. Up until the final at bat, Valencia struggled mightily against Masterson, striking out twice and grounding into a double play. But a walk-off hit is always worth a "stud" in my book.
- Michael Cuddyer: 2-4, R. As much for his base running as anything. On his single to left field, he got a great read and advanced to second base. And on Valencia''s game winning hit, he was already rounding third base by the time left fielder Luis Valbuena fielded the ball, and he scored easily. Considering that the single landed only two steps from Valbuena, it was a gutsy play that worked out in the end.
- Glen Perkins: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 SO. It took Perkins only eight pitches to get the Twins back in the dugout for the bottom of the ninth. Simply dominating.
- Justin Masterson: 7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 SO. 15 ground outs versus one fly out (!!) As good as advertised, but with the blown save he remains winless against the Twins.
None, can't do it after a walk-off win like this.
Drew Butera made a great throw in the first inning to nail Ezequiel Carrera, after he led off the game with a walk. It was a strikeout (of Orlando Cabrera) - throw out double play on a pitch low and out of the zone. Not an easy play by any means.
- Travis Buck was hit on the head by a Liriano fastball in the fifth inning. Quite scary, but it sounds like Buck will be all right, no concussion according to the reports after the game.
- Mauer made a few really nice plays at first base again last night. But he could (understandably) use some work on cut-offs, as Asdrubal Cabrera's sacrifice fly later in the fifth inning was too deep for Cuddyer to realistically throw out Lou Marson at home. Because the throw went through, Carrera advanced to second base. Could have been trouble, but Liriano managed to escape again.
- When Masterson was removed from the game in the eighth inning, he had thrown 104 pitches. Tough to second-guess Indians manager Manny Acta there, but Masterson was in control, and the way Ben Revere has been going lately it didn't look like he needed the left hander to get out of the inning. But thanks anyway!
- Speaking of Revere, he was 0-4 again last night. Might be time for a day off today to clear his head.