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Twins 7, Royals 3: Slowey Shines, Offense Breaks Through

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On a night when most of the baseball world was focused on Stephen Strasburg's MLB debut and the second day of the draft, Kevin Slowey stole the show with seven shutout innings, leading the Twins to an easy 7-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals last night at Target Field.  Slowey started strong, retiring the side in order in the first...second...third..and fourth innings, to the point where I started thinking to myself...even though I'm watching this game on DVR about two hours behind real time, is it still possible to jinx a perfect game? These grand delusions were quickly dispelled, as Jose Guillen finally reached base with a one out sharp line drive to left. With two outs, Mike Aviles lined another single to left, mounting the Royals' only threat against Slowey on the night, which ended with Denard Span making a great catch against the fence in right center field. And the Royals weren't able to touch Slowey the rest of the way, as Kevin lowered his ERA down to 3.46 on the season.

On the offensive side, the Twins batters quickly reminded Royals starter Zack Greinke that it's not 2009 anymore. After a dreadful west coast road trip in which Denard Span went 2-30 with one walk and seven strikeouts, he led off the first with a sharp line drive over the shortstop's head. Clearly looking to steal a base and get into Greinke's head, Denard was picked off first base. But this did not stop the Twins, as Matt Tolbert walked, Joe Mauer singled, and after a Justin Morneau strikeout, Michael Cuddyer drove Tolbert home with a clutch two out grounder through the hole between SS and 3B. Jason Kubel then hit shoulder high Greinke fastball high up the fence in right center to put the Twins up 3-0. In the fourth inning, the Twins played small ball. After singles by Delmon Young and Danny Valencia to lead off the inning, Nick Punto bunted to put both runners in scoring position for Span. And Denard delivered with a grounder to right to put the Twins up 5-0, more than enough for Slowey.

With the win, the Twins are again 10 games over .500 at 34-24, and maintain their 3.5 game lead over the Detroit Tigers, who came back to beat the Chicago White Sox 7-2 last night. A full run accounting breakdown, studs and duds follow after the jump.

Player Total Runs Batting Running
1. Denard Span, CF +0.09 +0.74 -0.65
2. Matt Tolbert, 2B +0.41 +0.15 +0.26
3. Joe Mauer, C +0.14 +0.16 -0.02
4. Justin Morneau, 1B -1.37 -1.37 0.00
5. Michael Cuddyer, RF +0.65 +0.40 +0.25
6. Jason Kubel, DH +2.18 +2.18 0.00
7. Delmon Young, LF -0.33 -0.16 -0.17
8. Danny Valencia, 3B +1.71 +1.32 +0.39
9. Nick Punto, SS -0.92 -0.92 0.00
Totals +2.56 +2.50 +0.06

 

Since the Twins batted in only 8 innings, the offense starts out with a total of 4.16 "expected" runs scored. Since the offense ended up scoring 7 runs, the overall net contributions from the batters, base runners, and Royals fielders must add up to +2.84 runs. This explains the difference between the batters/runners +2.56 and overall result, Billy Butler's error in the second inning contributed +0.28 runs, which were subsequently canceled out by Tolbert's strikeout to end the inning. Base running was solid throughout the game, except for Span's pickoff (-0.65 runs).

Studs

  1. Kevin Slowey: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO. He's on a roll, which is good considering Nick Blackburn's recent struggles.
  2. Jason Kubel: 2-4, 2B, HR, 3 RBI. Contributed +2.18 runs, hopefully the start of a hot streak for Jason.
  3. Danny Valencia: 3-4, 2 R. Contributed +1.71 runs and had a few nice plays in the field. He looked much more confident out there, solid line drive base hits. 
  4. Michael Cuddyer: 2-4, R, RBI. Contributed +0.65 runs, it's nice to have you back with the team, error notwithstanding.

Duds

  1. Justin Morneau: 0-4, 3 SO. -1.37 runs. Tough day for Justin.
  2. Jose Mijares: 0.2 IP, 2 H, BB, 2 R. Even though the runs were unearned due to Cuddyer's error, the Royals hit the ball sharply to score two runs. More importantly, Gardy had to bring Matt Guerrier in to close out the game. You hate to burn your 8th or 9th inning guys with a six run lead entering the ninth. But since Guerrier only threw two pitches to get the final out, he should be available tonight.