The Twins generally live and die by a combination of pitching and performance with runners in scoring position. That's true for every team in baseball but Minnesota needs success on both ends more often than some of the more talented teams in the league. Today, they managed to win with a great performance in just one of those categories.
Ricky Nolasco's first two starts for the Twins have been disappointing. Both were away games versus a division rival, where he'd combined for ten innings and ten earned runs, but today he started to make up for the miserable start by pitching eight innings of one-run baseball against yet another division rival. It was an efficient an outing as we've seen from Minnesota so far this year, including a seven-pitch fourth and no inning that saw him throw more than 18 pitches.
Only in the fifth did Nolasco look anything other than in control. He picked up two of eight groundouts following a leadoff double from Alex Gordon, but Lorenzo Cain delivered by pulling a hanging slider between Trevor Plouffe and the third base bag for a run-scoring double.
Outside of that frame, the game was all Twins. Brian Dozier got things started with his second lead off home run of the season, already his fourth bomb of 2014. He's only collected eight hits this season, but they've counted. In the bottom of the second the Royals and James Shields just imploded, allowing a pair of errors and a bases-loaded walk to Aaron Hicks that gave Minnesota a 4-0 lead before this happened.
That is one sexy home run from Joe Mauer. To the right-center field gap of Target Field? My heart, it is a-flutter.
Those were all the runs the Twins would score, and Mauer's massive homer was also the team's only hit with runners in scoring position today. Luckily, Nolasco had that covered. With Josh Willingham hitting the disabled list earlier today the Twins recalled Michael Tonkin, who took over for the ninth and struck out a batter en route to a scoreless frame.
With their second win in a row, the Twins improve to 5-6, one half game in front of the Royals. That means Sunday's game is their first chance to sweep a series this year, so be back here at 1:10pm tomorrow!
NO DUDS, TWINS WIN