Twins 11, Indians 0: Baker comes up Aces, middle of the order takes care of business.
If you hadn't been watching this game over the last couple of weeks, you would have been forgiven if you thought this was a first-place team in the middle of a pennant chase. A brilliant game by the team's defacto ace, out-classing the opposition's pitching and support from an in-tune crowd created at atmosphere that only comes around this time of year. Both Detroit and Chicago also won on Friday night, but that shouldn't take away from what a great game this was.
Scott Baker plunked Grady "Afflack!" Sizemore with his second pitch of the night. That was his only mistake. For nine full innings Baker managed the Cleveland Indians exactly like a contender should manage a team that just went through a mini fire-sale. He struck out five, including the challenging Asdrubal Cabrera twice, and allowed just two hits on the night.
After getting a lot of flack (from me in particular) for being unable to hit his spots and missing up in the zone in his last start, Baker showed exactly how good he can be up in the zone last night. The difference of course being that last night, when he threw those high fastballs, they were exactly where he wanted them to be. His breaking balls weren't tailing in or out, his off-speed set up a very effective fastball, and in general the results were that Baker had the Indians eating right out of his hand.
Of course, with 11 runs it's easy to be aggressive and take advantage of the opposition. Three runs in the third, six in the fourth and another pair in the sixth put this game away relatively quickly. Of Minnesota's 12 hits, only three game outside of the Mauer-Morneau-Kubel-Cuddyer lineup of doom, but the others also added four walks to go with their three hits. Whenever the middle of the order came to the dish, there was always somebody on base.
It was a complete win, highlighted offensively by Jason Kubel's 20th blast of the season. How big was the blast, you say? Upper deck, my friends. It was a towering shot, proving that yes, dammit, this is an offense to be reckoned with. Provided the middle of the order does its job. The homer by Patches pushed the game to its final score.
Other game notes....
- Orlando Cabrera was praised for making another "outstanding" play at shortstop, although I think it was much less impressive than the play he made on Wednesday.
- Denard Span reached base three times in this game, and stole his 19th base of the season. Yay for effective lead-off hitters!
- Joe Mauer had a perfect day at the plate, reaching base on all five plate appearances.
- Alexi Casilla's bunt single to lead off the bottom of the third was a thing of beauty. Lucky? Yes. Third baseman Jhonny Peralta did the right thing, waiting for it to roll foul, but the ball just straddled the white line. Did it stay on the line the entire time? I'm not sure it did, but I'm more than willing to abide by the results.
- When Justin Morneau "struck out" in the bottom of the sixth on a foul-tip, initially ruled a foul that was caught by catcher Kelly Shoppach, Gardy came out to argue the call. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson looked at the ball, saw the scuff from the dirt, conferred with his crew and correctly reversed the call and gave Justin the chance to finish his at-bat. It was a 9-0 game at this point, just moments before Kubel's two-run blast, which promptly brough Eric Wedge out of the dugout to argue. Either he felt his team needed a spark, was unwilling to watch the rest of his team's destruction, or thought that his pitcher should have been credited with an out he didn't earn. Either way, the correct call was made.
Stars of the Game
HM: Joe Mauer (3-for-3, 2 BB, 2 RBI, 2 R, .105 WPA)
#3: Jason Kubel (3-for-4, HR, BB, 5 RBI, R, .112 WPA)
#2: Denard Span (1-for-3, 2 BB, 2 R, SB, .159 WPA)
#1: Scott Baker (9 IP, 2 H, 5 K, HBP, 0 R, .208 WPA)