That was impressive as it was frustrating.
The closest the Twins ever got today was before the game even started, when the score was still 0-0. Colorado got on the board early as Francisco Liriano hit a rough patch as far as his control was concerned. Seven consecutive Rockies reached base on three singles, a double, a walk and a pair of hit batters. Liriano still managed to strike out a pair in the frame and was aided on an outfield assist by Delmon Young, but you could argue that he was lucky to escape the first with just three runs against him.
After the first inning, Liriano regained form. He faced just two batters over the minimum from innings two through seven (two walks and a single), and strung up a series of zeros that gave his offense more than enough chances to get back into the game. Removed after the seventh, Liriano finished another strong effort with six strikeouts, five hits, three walks and three runs.
All you can do is say "if only" about that first inning.
For his part, Ubaldo Jimenez was almost as good as advertised, striking out just four. He owned the Twins for vast portions of eight innings, getting them to end the second, third and fourth innings with a double play. Minnesota managed a base runner in every...single...inning...but only pushed across a runner in the bottom of the eighth on a Drew Butera single.
With two on and just one out in the eighth, Joe Mauer came in to pinch hit for Matt Tolbert (who picked up two more hits today). Mauer worked a full count before smashing a line drive right to second baseman Jonathan Herrera. Denard Span didn't even have time to react and was doubled off of first base. This after getting picked off second in the sixth on a pretty sick move by Jimenez.
Making two outs on the bases is never a good thing, but he can really only be blamed for one. And that one would have probably gotten most guys.
This one didn't look like a pitcher's duel, but from innings two through seven it really was. You could argue that during that stretch, Liriano was the better pitcher. But for eight impressive innings Jimenez was the one who did his job and kept the Twins off the board. He allowed a steady stream of base runners, but he also found a way to get them out.
Notes, studs and duds after the jump.
- The Twins will wait until batting practice tomorrow in Philadelphia before deciding whether or not to activate Orlando Hudson. I hope he's ready to go, because this lineup misses him, even with a couple of strong starts in a row from Tolbert.
- Mauer is now 0-for-4 as a pinch hitter.
- Bert Blyleven talked about how great of a year Zack Greinke had last year, and then said something like "but this year he's struggled, look at how he's had trouble picking up wins". Oh, Bert. For someone who was robbed of a number of wins by offenses that couldn't back up a number of his strong starts, I find his comment ironic.
- If the Twins do activate Hudson tomorrow, do they send down Valencia (now batting .351), Tolbert (.214), or do they make a decision on Brendan Harris?
Ubaldo Jimenez (8 IP, 1 R, 8 H, 4 K, 2 BB, .398 WPA)
Francisco Liriano (7 IP, 3 R, 5 H, 6 K, 3 BB, -.030 WPA)
Alex Burnett (1 IP, HR, 2 R, -.054 WPA)
Denard Span (2 outs on the bases, 1-for-3, BB, -.064 WPA)
Justin Morneau (0-for-4, -.117 WPA)