Two outs, two strikes. Twice.
Somehow, knowing that the Twins won the series doesn't make me feel any better. In fact, I feel sick. I was ready to write headlines like "Twins Eliminate Sox" or "Punto Wins Game With Head-First Slide Into First Base" or "Twins Say Goodbye To Sox In Style". But NO.
For seven innings Brian Duensing was brilliant. He retired seven on stikes and allowed just
four five hits, walking two. Nobody scored. The double plays came at the right time, the strikeouts were huge, and as good as Mark Buehrle was, Duensing was just better. Even when Michael Cuddyer made a catch against the baggy and the umpires played Make Believe, pretending to have seen the ball hit the wall, Brian was able to cowboy up, settle in and retire the White Sox without surrendering a run in a four-out inning.
Buehrle cruised for a while, blowing through five innings and picking up steam before the Twins got to him in the sixth. Jason Kubel picked up a pair of hits off Buehrle tonight, the biggest coming with two outs and the bases loaded in said frame to score Denard Span and Joe Mauer and give the Twins their 2-0 lead. And for a short time, it looked like that would be it.
Fast-forward through a third double play turned against the Sox and Jason Kubel throwing Carlos Quentin out as he tried to stretch a single into a double, through Jon Rauch and another double play, through Joe Mauer (did he stare down Randy "Oops that fastball got away from me" Williams?) getting plunked, through Mark Kotsay and Scott Podsednik (wow did he suck tonight, is anyone surprised?) in the ninth inning.
With two outs, Nathan worked ahead of Gordon friggin' Beckham 0-2 before throwing three consecutive balls and then watching an inside fastball somehow end up in the home run porch. Paul Konerko also saw a two-strike count as Nathan was clearly struggling, and on pitch number seven of the at-bat Nathan's slider ended up about two feet higher than Span could jump in left field. Tie game.
Fast-forward through Jermaine Dye and Quentin walking and Nathan getting pulled. Fast-forward through Alexei Ramirez and his single, through Span's good throw and Mike Redmond being unable to A) block the plate and B) hold onto the ball, through a wild pitch (passed ball?) that got by Redmond. 4-2 Sox, all runs coming with two out, the first three runs coming with two strikes.
I take no joy in the fact that the Sox are still dead in the water, and it's of little comfort that the Twins took two of three. It was the last time the Twins and White Sox would face off in the Dome, the sweep was ours for the taking, and it was blown by the guy who is arguably the best closer in the game.
Stars of the Game
#3: Denard Span (3-for-4, R, .040 WPA)
#2: Jason Kubel (2-for-3, 2 RBI, .257 WPA)
#1: Brian Duensing (7 IP,
4 5 H, 7 K, 2 BB, 0 R, .436 WPA)
Teeth Gnashig and Shredding of Clothes
#1: Joe Nathan (0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 HR, 2 BB, 4 R, 1 K, -.396 WPA)
#2: Matt Guerrier (0.1 IP, 1 H, -.429 WPA)
#3: Mike Redmond (0-for-3,
passed ball, dropped ball on play at the plate)