Impressive display of power goes the other way when bullpen collapses.
Brendan Harris led off the action last night with his fourth home run of the season, and it couldn't have been a more fitting preview of what was to come. Houston and Minnesota combined for six home runs, and with Scott Baker pitching well and pitching with a lead going into the later innings, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who thought the game would get out of hand in the way that it did.
Through six frames the Twins led 3-1, behind solo shots from Harris, Delmon Young (yes, Young went yard...and looked good doing it) and Joe Mauer. The only other hit that Houston starter Brian Moehler was Harris' double in the third; 37-year old Moehler made just three mistakes in his six innings, walking just one and striking out three. For a guy who was absolutely demolished in his first two outings and looked to be all but finished, his last few starts have provided Houston with some pretty good value for their money. And after allowing three home runs, most pitchers would have left their squad out of the contest. Clearly that wasn't the case on Saturday.
After Lance Berkman rolled over on one to Harris at short, the 'Stros continued to plate four runs. Baker was lifted after consecutive hits, leaving the Twins hanging to a one-run lead with the tying run on first base. Sean Henn then proceeded to give the game away.
Henn's last two appearances haven't been his best. After establishing himself after a pretty reliable arm over his first month with the team, two home runs (on just three hits) and a pair of walks have led to a charge of five runs. There's no reason to condemn the use of Henn in the situation last night, but it's never fun to completely lose it like he did. Jason Michaels' double just out of Carlos Gomez' range came on a fat fastball (let's not discuss Gomez getting caught in a run-down, shall we?), right over the plate, and Michael Bourne followed that up two hitters later with a huge shot to right field. It was only Bourne's second homer of the year, but left-handed hitters are combining for a 1.235 OPS off of Henn...compared to a .408 OPS from right-handed hitters. Perhaps Henn could be better served as a ROOGY?
Luis Ayala expanded the deficit from two to three runs following Berkman's solo blast in the eighth. Berkman is a big man. That is all.
Facing LaTroy Hawkins in the bottom of the eighth, Harris singled for his third hit of the night. Following a fielder's choice, Hawkins sent down Justin Morneau on three high fastballs, moving inside to outside. Justin cut at all three, and missed every single time; his OPS in June is just .702.
Mauer stole second base for his first nap of the year, just moments before Jason Kubel took Hawkins' 13th consecutive 94-mph fastball and deposited it in he folded seats sitting in the black hole of center field. Kubel's 12th bomb brought the Twins to within one, but Jose Morales' ninth-inning two-out double was wasted.
The Twins haven't lost a series in two weeks, splitting a four-gamer with the A's and taking two of three from both the Cubs and the Pirates. Winning this afternoon would be huge, because both the Tigers and White Sox won last night. A proper winning streak would be great, but winning two out of three would be just as good in the end.
Stars of the Game
#3: Jason Kubel (1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, R, .102 WPA)
#2: Scott Baker (6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 6 K, 1 BB, .119 WPA)
#1: Brendan Harris (3-for-4, HR, 2B, RBI, R, .139 WPA)