And Joe Mauer didn't even homer.
Scott Baker had a couple of shaky innings, but he kept the game from getting completely out of hand. He made a couple of very big pitches to get some very big outs, and with a little help from his defense managed to keep the contest at 4-0 through five. And when he was told he was being lifted after the fifth inning due to his pitch count, Baker said no. It's always a fine line to walk, pushing yourself further than the coaching staff thinks you should, but the bullpen needed a break and Scott knew it.
And so Baker took the hill for the sixth.
It wasn't pretty, but at least he stood up and gave it a shot. He managed one out, but two base runners, and was pulled for Jose Mijares. Mijares, who looks like he's more likely to be a professional bowler than baesball player. On Wednesday night the bowler turned in his best performance of the season, bridging the gap between Baker and what would eventually be Joe Nathan all on his own. Three strikeouts and not one single base runner in 2.2 innings, giving his offense the chance they needed. Getting Andruw Jones to ground into that inning-ending double play in the sixth was huge.
After Carlos Gomez, Nick Punto and Denard Span loaded the bases with one out in the third and came away with nothing, those same three men did it again in the fifth. This time, Orlando Cabrera came through with a sacrifice fly to open the scoring for the Twins, getting them on the board at 4-1.
It was the sixth that was the big inning. Michael Cuddyer and Joe Crede led off the inning with back-to-back doubles, cutting the Rangers' lead to two. Texas starter Kevin Milwood fought back for two more outs before Punto singled and Span doubled, chasing him from the game with the contest knotted at four. Cabrera's single gave him his second RBI of the game and gave the Twins their 5-4 lead, and it would be enough; Span's slide kept Ivan Rodriguez from hanging onto the ball.
Nathan's perfect ninth, including a pair of strikeouts, earned him his 31st save.
Two comeback wins in a row is great, but this is just the beginning. With the Tigers dropping their game on Wednesday the Twins are back within 5.5, and with a winning streak and a little luck that gap could close very quickly. If the pitching can straighten itself out at all over the next few games, Minnesota could turn into a dark horse candidate for the AL Central title after all.
Incomplete as this team is, playing in October is still the goal. We'll keep the dream alive for at least one more day.
Stars of the Game
#3: Nick Punto (2-fo-3, BB, R, RBI, .161 WPA)
#2: Denard Span (3-for-4, 2B, R, RBI, .226 WPA)
#1: Jose Mijares (2.2 IP, 3 K, 0 H, 0 BB, 0 R, .444 WPA)