Royals 5, Twins 4
When one hitter drives in four runs and the pitchers allow a total of five runs, one would figure a team has a pretty good chance of the other eight batters driving in at least one more run. Unfortunately, when we're talking about the 2009 Minnesota Twins, expectations go right out the window. This afternoon against the Kansas City Royals, Joe Mauer drive in four runs with a double and a 3-run homer. The rest of the Twins lineup? Other than a Nick Punto double to lead off the third inning, zilch. Four singles and seven walks, not a single run.
Out of the gate, Royals leadoff batter David DeJesus tripled up the right center field gap. After a Willie Bloomquist groundout, Kansas City was up 1-0 before many of us even realized the game had started. The Twins answered with a Mauer double, scoring Denard Span to tie the game. After a 1-2-3 second inning, Twins starter Carl Pavano appeared to get into a groove. Unfortunately, Carl had an 8.64 ERA against Kansas City in 2009 for a reason. In the third, the Royals went: walk, single, strikeout, single, double to plate three runs and go up 4-1. An Alex Gordon homer in the fourth put the Royals up 5-1. I don't know about the rest of you, but I was thinking "here we go again...".
Fortunately, Mr. Joe Mauer is still a Minnesota Twin. After two outs (Redmond and Punto, go figure), Denard Span walked and Orlando Cabrera singled. Mauer followed with a home run to right center (really, this one wasn't to left field) to bring the Twins to within one run. We were back in the game.
Pavano got through a scoreless sixth, bringing up the bottom of the Twins order. Then the Twins let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers. Royals starter Gil Meche had already thrown 83 pitches through five innings, and given his 90-100 pitch limit he was pulled for reliever Robinson Tejeda. Tejeda threw a total of six pitches, walking Joe Crede and falling behind Mike Redmond, 2-0. By this point, Trey Hillman had seen enough, so he brought in Jamey Wright, who walked Mike Redmond. First and second, no one out, down one, Nick Punto at the plate. An obvious sacrifice situation. Unfortunately, Ron Gardenhire forgot one simple fact. NICK PUNTO SUCKS AT BUNTING! LNP failed to get the bunt down, striking out after bunting the third strike foul. A wasted opportunity to move the runners over. Wright walked Span to load the bases, bringing up Orlando Cabrera in a hero situation. What did he do? Grounded into a double play to end the threat and let the Royals off the hook.
By this point, it was obvious that the air was out of the Twins' tires. Over the next three innings, against the worst bullpen in the American League, all the Twins could manage were two walks. Of course, some of this was due to Trey Hillman not being allergic to throwing his closer for more than one inning, as he put his most reliable bullpen arm, Joakim Soria out for both the 8th and 9th innings to close out the game. How about that, and old-time-baseball save. Ballgame.
Studs, duds and a few notes after the jump
- Many, including me, will highlight Punto's failed bunt attempt as a key to the Twins loss this afternoon. While I think this played a key role in deflating the team, one can make an argument the inning would have ended scoreless regardless. With runners on second and third and one out, I would not have been surprised to see Wright intentionally walk Span to load the bases, at which point an O-Cab GIDP would still have ended the inning. We'll never know...
- Even though he gave up five runs, Pavano pitched a gutty seven innings. He only gave up five hits and 3 walks over the seven innings, which isn't too bad. His problem was that the Royals took full advantage of their run scoring opportunities, bunching 3 hits and a walk to score three runs in the third.
- The Twins, on the other hand, had more baserunners (14 vs 11), including 7 walks. In what appears to be a disturbing trend, we live and die by the long ball.
1. Joe Mauer: 2-4, 2B, HR, 4 RBI. His batting average is now at .370 and climbing. He's batting .429/.467/1.123 in August.
2. Joakim Soria: 2 IP, BB, 2 SO. Clutch two inning save. I guess he hasn't had too many save opportunities lately.
3. Jesse Crain: 1 IP, H, 3 SO. He struck out the side in the 9th to give the meat of the Twins order one last chance at Soria. Denard Span (1-3, 2 R, 2 BB) was also deserving, but I have to give kudos to Crain.
1. Nick Punto: That failed bunt was a killer. He did have a double though.
2. Orlando Cabrera: 1-5, 0-2 with RISP, killer GIDP. Just about anything else would have tied up the game.
3. Michael Cuddyer: 0-4, 0-2 with RISP. So much for his career success against Meche.