For the second game in a row, the Twins drop a game to the Yankees that they could have won.
Nick Blackburn didn't pitch poorly. That much has to be said. He gave up a three-run blast early to Mark Teixeira, and with a lead late gave up another run with Tex at the plate, but at all other times was in control. He was mostly efficient, worked his sinking fastball low in the zone, and gave his offense every chance to take it away.
In the short version, Joe Mauer's home run to dead-center field in the fourth and Justin Morneau's solo blast in the eighth gave Minnesota enough to take it home. Morneau's shot tied the game at three and, for a brief moment, enabled the Twins to steal momentum away from a Yankee squad that had hunkered down behind Joba Chamberlain. But that offense wasn't enough, and Brian Buscher's double that plated Michael Cuddyer to give the Twins a 4-3 lead wouldn't be enough, either.
Craig Breslow was tonight's losing pitcher, and rightfully so. After Blackburn's battle, Matt Guerrier came on and retired six Yankees without surrendering a run. But one guy on the offensive side of the ball came up in big situations on Saturday afternoon, and failed to deliver every single time. His name is Brendan Harris.
- In the top of the first with the bases empty, Harris struck out looking for what would be the first time in the game. This wasn't a big situation, but it's never a good thing to strike out looking with the bases empty. Either you didn't see the pitch, were expecting something else, or were too tied up to make a move.
- With Nick Punto on second base and two out in the top of the third, Harris takes the first pitch he sees and grounds out. In the first leverage situation of the game for the Twins offense, he wasn't able to take advantage.
- Top of the fifth with Denard Span on second and two away, trailing 3-2, Harris decides to take a pitch right down the middle of the plate for strike three.
- Fast-forward to the top of the seventh, runners on second and third with two out. Harris flies out to center to retire the side, and the Twins still trailed 3-2.
- Top of the ninth, tied at four, Harris grounds out for the second notch of the inning.
- Top of the eleventh, still tied at four; with two away, Harris ground out again.
It's not as though Harris is soley responsible for the lack of execution on the offensive side of the ball, but he came up in crucial situations and didn't come through. Yes, it happens to everyone, but tonight Harris needed to come through in some leverage situations and he never did.
Teixeira had a fantastic night, driving in the first four Yankee runs while going 4-for-4 with a three-run homer and a double. After forcing extra innings with a line-drive single in the bottom of the eighth when he probably should have been walked, Tex drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the eleventh. With Breslow facing Alex Rodriguez, the same guy everyone wanted Blackburn to face in the eighth instead of Teixeira, it seemed inevitable. Breslow's second slider, low and in, was absolutely jettisoned into the left field stratosphere to end the game.
Another walk-off win for the Yankees, and another fault for the bullpen after a strong showing by Guerrier. There were a pair of situations that the Twins needed to take advantage of and just couldn't muster it: in the top of the seventh with runners on second and third and one out, and in the top of the tenth against Mariano Rivera where Morneau and Jason Kubel reached to lead things off only to be followed by three consecutive outs.
This one falls on both sides.
Duds of the Game
#1: Brendan Harris (0-for-6, 2 K, 4 LOB, -.285 WPA)
#2: Craig Breslow (0.1 IP, BB, HR, 2 R, -.320 WPA)
#3: Michael Cuddyer (0-for-4, BB, R, 6 LOB, -.216 WPA)
Stars of the Game
#3: Brian Buscher (1-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI, BB, .227 WPA)
#2: Matt Guerrier (2.0 IP, 1 BB, 1 K, 0 R, .300 WPA)
#1: Justin Morneau (2-for-3, HR, 2 BB, 2 R, RBI, .359 WPA)