From Section 127, row 8 (four rows from the screen behind the right handed batters box).
The Twins have struggled offensively up the middle most of this season. So it came as some surprise that Cabrera and Punto were in the middle of much of the offense on this night. Punto was 3-4 with a double and two RBI. Cabrera was 2-4 with a homer. Joe Mauer added an RBI single to a two-hit night that saw his league leading average climb to .373--a commanding 19-point lead over Ichiro Suzuki with 17 games to play.
Mauer opened the scoring in the first with a single that knocked in Denard Span. But Fausto Carmona kept the Twins from scoring while allowing them to reach base 12 times in 5 and 1/3 messy innings of work. Perhaps a better way of putting it is that the Twins failed to eat the RBI steaks set in front of them on the grill. Denard Span, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer each left four runners on base, while Brian Buscher left three.
Scott Baker started and pitched brilliantly until the fourth, when he had his typical one bad inning of the night: A three-run affair in which the hard-hit balls that were otherwise caught throughout the evening found holes. The lone exception was Travis Haffner's booming double over the head of Kubel in right, which could not have been caught by any right fielder shorter than 10 feet tall and slower than a 4.3 40. Still, Baker fell into the familiar trap of coming in with hittable strikes when ahead in the count, and, as Bert likes to say, "they did not miss them". Fortunately for the Twins, it was the only inning in which he struggled, finishing with 5 1/3 quality innings and giving the Twins a chance to come back.
Cabrera started the come back in the fifth with a no-doubt homer into the bleachers in left. Nick Punto drove in the eventual winning run in the sixth after a Delmon Young double and a, Brian Buscher single.
The Twins bullpen did just enough to preserve the victory. Ron Mahay relieved Baker with one on and one out in the sixth and promptly got ahead of Hafner 0-2 before Pronk leaned into a slider to get nicked on the elbow, earning first base the Ernie Pantusso way. Gardy brought in Jon Rauch, who induced a double-play grounder to end the threat.
Jose Mijares and Matt Guerrier we most impressive. But once again, Joe Nathan had the old timers in my section reaching for their nitro after surrendering a homer to Matt LaPorta homered and Trevor Crowe walked. But Nathan induced Michael Brantley on a deep fly to Young in left to preserve the victory.
It was a memorable end to my Twins baseball watching at the Dome. What struck me about our seats was how many guys got the fat part of the bat on the ball and how many of those liners turned into outs.
Orlando Cabrera: His homer really woke up the Twins. Plus he made a nice catch on a Texas leaguer in the ninth to ultimately preserve the victory.
Nick Punto: I've never seen Punto on so many balls. He seems hot right now. Good thing he didn't slide into first on a grounder to third late in the game. The throw forced Andy Marte to leap for the ball and he would have landed on some vital body part of Punto's had Nicky Poo decided to do his patented belly flop. He also made a nice defensive play in the eight to keep the double play in order.
Joe Mauer: 2-3 with another BB. His only non-hit was a smash that second baseman Jamie Carrol made a nice play on to rob him of his 18th 3-hit game of the season. I guess he'll have to get that tomorrow. Update: Mauer is good.
Jose Mijares: One batter. Three pitches. One K. Brantley had no chance.
Matt Guerrier: Not a spotless eighth, but he held serve. I was most impressed when he man handled Hafner for the third out with two runners on and Francisco Liriano warming up in the pen.
Jason Kubel: With Justin Morneau and Joe Crede out for the year, somebody needs to step up in the middle of the order.
Michael Cuddyer: See the last note. He did make some nice plays at first though.