On Monday I made the prediction that the Twins would come away from this series with the Tigers with two wins. That's the part I got right. I also said they'd beat Justin Verlander, which they did not. But they did get a big series victory early in the season, and as exciting as Wednesday's walk-off was, today the Twins executed in all facets of the game.
When the Twins lost on Sunday, October 3, 2010, the team finished that season at 94-68. Today is the first time since then, 30 months and one day later, that they're over .500.
Mike Pelfrey's performance from this afternoon fits right in with that of Vance Worley's and Kevin Correia's to start the year. All three are new to Minnesota, and all three ended up turned in performances that were more than good enough to keep their offense within striking distance. Pelfrey allowed a pair of runs today, both unearned. In the first inning Justin Morneau couldn't handle a grounder that led to a leadoff single for Austin Jackson, but then a throwing error on Joe Mauer allowed Jackson to move to third after stealing second. Torii Hunter's ground out scored the first unearned run.
In the third, Pedro Florimon also tallied a throwing error. Hunter later scored. But that's all Detroit would manage.
Josh Willingham's home run put a charge into me. I don't know about you, but in that moment I felt like the Twins were in this to win it. That's not a feeling I've been accustomed to having the last two years. And an inning later, when Trevor Plouffe bounced one off the facing of the second deck, it was just a thing of beauty. Of course there was that offensive explosion in the eighth, too.
What really made the difference in this game, the truly make-or-break moment, was in the seventh. Josh Roenicke took the hill to kick off the inning, with his only other appearance including a wild pitch that more or less put game one on ice for the Tigers. He walked the leadoff hitter on five pitches - Omar Infante, no less. Of all the people to give a free pass to when you're nursing a one-run lead. Jackson turned on the first pitch he saw and ripped it for a double to put runners on second and third with nobody out, with the Twins clinging to a 3-2 lead.
Moments like these are where teams can make their mark on a season. At this point getting out of the inning with less than two runs scoring is highly unlikely, so getting out of it with just one run scoring would be a massive win. I don't know about you but I was praying to the baseball gods for a tie.
Roenicke struck out Hunter on three pitches. He then gave Miguel Cabrera a free pass to load the bases and set the Twins up for a force at every base. At this point the Tigers could expect to score 1.6 runs in this situation. Gardy brought in Tyler Robertson to face Prince Fielder, and it turned out to be another good decision on a day full of them even when you wouldn't expect them to be so. Fielder took the first pitch he saw for a ball and then took four big cuts at four consecutive sliders, swinging through the fourth one in the dirt.
One more time Gardenhire played bullpen roulette, and Casey Fien battled to get Victor Martinez to pop up to second base. Fien dealt Martinez four changeups in a row before flashing a low 90s fastball that saw Martinez get too far under it. This isn't October, but with the cool temperatures and with the weight on every pitch, it kind of felt like playoff baseball. And that's a fantastic thing to feel during game three.
It's tempting to give one to Roenicke, but hey - no duds when you beat the predicted division champions!