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Joe Mauer's Play At the Plate Makes Yankees Wait Until the 10th

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Slowey throws a great game, but the bullpen can't keep the Yankees off the board in extras.

For six innings Kevin Slowey faced off against A.J. Burnett, and Kevin was the better pitcher.  In the seventh both squads managed a pair of runs, with Burnett not lasting the frame.  Kevin made it into the eighth, before getting pulled with two on and two out.  Jose Mijares struck out Hideki Matsui to end the threat.

Slowey was solid for a vast majority of the afternoon, striking out eight and walking none while scattering seven hits and a nifty plunking of one Alex Rodriguez.  Burnett struggled at times, actually walking six.  But once again, for the upteenth billionth time in the series, Minnesota couldn't take advantage of good situations.

In the top of the seventh, having already scored a pair of runs off the shaky Burnett, Jason Kubel struck out with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau on base.  In the top of the eighth, with the bases loaded and one out, they couldn't manage to put even one across.  Baseball is just as much about execution as it is the talent you put on the field, and in this series the Twins' offensive execution has been miserable.

This series has lasted three games so far, and Minnesota has given away every one.

Credit needs to be given to the Yankees, whether I want to give it (I don't) or not (really, I don't).  When the Twins refused to take the game by the horns, they did.  And in dramatic fashion.  Today is was Johnny Damon's one-out solo shot in the tenth off Jesse Crain that sealed yet another walk-off win for the Bronx Bombers.

Aside from Slowey's game, Mauer continues to show time and again why he's one of the best players in the game today.  At the plate he was 2-for-4 with a walk, but it's plays like the one at the plate in the bottom of the ninth that are building his legend.  With Mijares on the mound and Brett Gardner at second and one out, a Francisco Cervelli smashed grounder looked like it was about to end the game by bleeding through the middle of the field.  A number of things happened in the matter of about three or four seconds.

  • Gardner was off on contact, at break-neck speed.
  • Mijares, still finishing his follow-through on his delivery, spun on his heel and stuck out his glove, managing to deflect the ball and keep it in the infield.
  • The ball deflected to the first base side, up the line.  Mauer came up to field the ball.
  • Mijares, who either thought he still had the ball or was trying to fool Gardner, moved toward third base.
  • Gardner doesn't bite and rounds third.
  • Mauer pump-fakes a throw to first base, now a good ten or twelve feet up the line.
  • Gardner is already around third base at full tilt.  He either buys Mauer's fake or simply believes he can beat him home, but I'm not clear whether he was sent by his third base coach or not.
  • It's a race to the plate, and Gardner slides to the outside with his left arm out-stretched.
  • Mauer dives with ball in glove, his right hand out-stretched to push Gardner's hand away.  His glove catches Gardner in the side, and in dramatic fashion has recorded the second out of the inning.

It was an unbelieveable play, and it would give the Twins offense one more opportunity to plate a run and break the 2-2 tie.  Sadly, we already know how it ended.

Joe Crede could be back in the lineup tomorrow, but there aren't any promises.  This offense needs a boost from someone outside of the Mauer-Morneau tandem, particularly in the bottom of the batting order and in the number two hole.

And of course, the bullpen isn't helping itself avoid its share of criticism.  Crain's 2009 just doesn't get any better, does it?

D'oh! Awards
*  Brian Buscher (1-for-5, K, -.200 WPA)
*  Denard Span (0-for-4, 3 K, BB, -.233 WPA)
*  Jesse Crain (0.1 IP, HR, -.357 WPA)

Stars of the Game
#3:  Kevin Slowey (7.2 IP, 8 K, 0 BB, 7 H, 2 R, .063 WPA)
#2:  Jose Mijares (1.1 IP, H, K, BB, .278 WPA)
#1:  Joe Mauer (2-for-4, BB, .219 WPA)