Leads of 5-0, 7-2 and even 9-2...and the outcome goes down to the bottom of the ninth.
When Torii Hunter was removed from the game in the bottom of the first inning, a consequence of taking a pitch off his hand, Lew Ford took his place on first base. Watching the game, it was difficult to ward off the feeling that the offense now had gaping holes in more than 50% of the lineup. At least Ford playing in center field wouldn't cost the Twins any runs.
Just the opposite happened. Lew Ford responded at the plate by having his game of the year. Going 2-for-3 with four RBI, our much-maligned fourth outfielder was one of the Twins major offensive catalysts in Sunday's 10-run effort. Just as surprising, however, were the two mishaps in center field in the top of the ninth.
With the Twins clinging to an uncomfortable 9-7 lead and nobody out, Prince Fielder took Joe Nathan's one-one delivery and skied it to medium center field. Ford slid slowly to his left, clearly unable to pick up the ball. It landed to his right and bounced into no-man's land, giving the less than swift Fielder enough time to get around the diamond. It was the Brewers' fourth run in the last two innings. Bill Hall, Johnny Estrada and Geoff Jenkins followed up this miscue with three consecutive singles before Nathan got Tony Graffanino to strike out swinging.
With one out, number nine hitter Craig Counsell took Nathan's first pitch and drove it to center field. Ford had positioned himself well, catching the ball as he was running toward the infield, but then double-clutched when he wasn't able to pull the ball out of his glove. His double-clutch forced him to rush his throw, and it came in ten feet up the first base line allowing Hall to score easily. A clean transition from glove to hand would have given Ford plenty of time to set up a play at the plate.
Joe Nathan struck out Corey Hart to end the ninth (Hart was 3-for-6 with two home runs), but the damage had been done. Two runs had plated to tie the game at nine. Milwaukee, who was down 9-2 after the fifth inning, scored two in the sixth, three in the eighth and two in the ninth. The Brewers smelled blood.
The entire series had a foul stench on it, as far as the Twins were concerned. From a game Minnesota shouldn't have won on Friday (11-3), to a game they could have won on Saturday (5-2), Sunday's game was one they should have won. Since the sixth inning, it didn't look like the Twins were leading a blow-out. It looked like the Brewers from Monday, June 18th, had watched the tape, knew what the Twins pitchers were going to throw and simply had to make contact. It seemed that this game too, no matter how improbable, would end with another loss.
Instead, Justin Morneau turned on the second pitch from Chris Spurling and deposited it over the baggy. On his 20th shot of 2007, Morneau stood in between the Twins and an oncoming bus, picked up the bus and flipped it out of the way. Minnesota 10, Milwaukee 9.
There probably shouldn't have been a bottom of the ninth to begin with, but shit happens...at least Justin had the pooper scooper.