Wasn't that one money in the bank? It looked like money in the bank.
On a sweltering night in Milwaukee, Nick Blackburn was feeling no heat. With two outs in the eighth inning he'd held the Brewers to a pair of runs, and behind his own squad's three was set to deliver yet another winning performance.
It was unlikely that Nick would have taken the mound for the ninth inning. With two outs in the eighth and a 2-2 count to J.J. Hardy, he'd thrown 92 pitches...the last of which probably should have been a called third strike intead of ball two. His velocity had held constant, but even the 10-pitch innings were adding up and it was a close game. If Blackburn could just get that last strike to turn into an out, Joe Nathan would be able to shut the door.
Blackburn's 93rd pitch was up and in, out of the strike zone, but Hardy got just enough on it to fist it for a bloop into center field. Even in this situation, with the winning run coming to the plate, the game should still have been in hand. Jason Kendall isn't the guy to hit the blast following the bloop.
But a double and a pair of errors would do the trick.
Jason Kubel hit the cut-off man, Brendan Harris, who turned and could have had a play at the plate with a good relay of his own. Instead of hitting Joe Mauer a step up the third base line, or even at worst right at home plate, Harris' throw was up the first base line. Mauer snapped at the off-target throw and attempted a sweeping tag of Hardy, but the ball got away. Blackburn, backing up home plate, picked up the ball and, seeing Kendall try to take third base, risked a throw...that sailed past Joe Crede. Kendall could have crab-walked home for the win.
Blackburn got Casey McGehee on the very next pitch, but the damage was done. A 3-2 lead had evaporated into a 4-3 deficit in the blink of an eye and two bad throws.
Minnesota couldn't return volley off Trevor Hoffman in the top of the ninth. Jose Morales struck out swinging on three pitches, Harris did the same in five, Mauer worked a five-pitch walk and Justin Morneau grounded out on what looked like a possible ball four.
There are unlimited ways to win or lose a game, but ultimately it's the win or loss that matters. This one puts the Twins a game under .500 again, riding what's becoming a nauseating wave of mediocrity. Minnesota now trails a Detroit Tigers club, winners of six straight, by five games. These wasted opportunities are adding up.
Complete Twins/Brewers coverage from SB Nation.
Stars of the Game
#3: Nick Blackburn (8 IP, CG, 11 H, 2 K, BB, 3 R, -.027 WPA)
#2: Jason Kubel (1-for-4, HR, RBI, R, .069 WPA)
#1: Joe Crede (1-for-3, 2B, BB, RBI, .121 WPA)