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Twins Sweep A's with 4-2 Win, Slowey Doesn't Allow a Hit, Thome Homers

Another strong team performance seals the sweep...but somehow I think the sweep might be story 1-B. Story 1-A, naturally, will be: did the Twins do the right thing by pulling Kevin Slowey after seven innings?

In case you missed it, Slowey pitched exceptionally well on Sunday afternoon. The 26-year old right hander didn't allow a single hit over the course of his seven innings. That isn't to say he had perfect control, because he didn't--three walks and a ball in the left shoulderblade of Mark Ellis will tell you that. Indeed, his control seemed to get a bit worse in the seventh inning, and by the time Slowey recorded the third out he'd thrown 106 pitches on the afternoon.

But if I'm honest, right now I'm not sure which side of the issue I'm on. On one hand I wish that Gardy had at least given Slowey the opportunity to go out there and see what happened. But on a more rational level, and I lean more towards this decision, I have to think Gardy did the right thing. Forget the pitch count, it wasn't about that. The Twins were hanging onto a 1-0 lead at the time, and they couldn't know that the offense was about to put up a three-spot in the bottom half of the inning. On top of that, Slowey was starting to miss his spots more often. He'd walked Jack Cust to open the top of the seventh, on four pitches. He induced a groundout from Kevin Kouzmanoff, but three of the pitches in that plate appearance weren't anywhere close, either. Slowey then hit Ellis, although the bean ball was the second pitch that was too far inside for comfort. Rajai Davis would ground into a double play to end it, but Slowey was obviously losing his control.

Still...his line was pretty good.

Piitches-Strikes (%) IP H R K BB
2010 - Kevin Slowey 106-64 (60.3%) 7.0 0 0 5 3

Two sides of the issue. My heart wishes Slowey could have come out for the eighth, but my brain knows that lifting him was probably the right move to make.

[EDIT: After thinking about this for a few more minutes, I definitely agree with Gardenhire's decision to remove Slowey. I'd forgotten about his recent spate of elbow soreness. And Gardy knew how unpopular of a decision this would be. Good for him for doing the right thing.]

From Gardy:

"First of all, I’ll start off by saying I’d boo me, too, if I took a pitcher out with a no-hitter going, but I would do it a thousand times the same way because Slowey’s just come off an elbow injury and we’re not even going to come close to risking this guy ... We had to back him up the last time. It’s the way it is. It’s sad because I’d be booing too, I want to throw a no-hitter myself, but I also know that I’m responsible for this young man’s arm, and we were going to protect him no matter what."

And from Slowey:

"I was a little disappointed ... I don’t think it would be possible not to be a litttle bit disappointed, but I think more than anything I was encouraged. I was encouraged by the way it was presented to me. I was encouraged by the fact that Gardy and Andy [pitching coach Rick Anderson] care a lot more about me as a person and as a pitcher in the long run than they do about winning one game or having one accomplishment. I think that says a lot about them and a lot about our organization."

More on the game after the jump.

Minnesota pushed across a run in the third with a two-out rally. Orlando Hudson and Joe Mauer squeaked out back-to-back singles before Jason Kubel looped one down the left field line. It bounced over the fence in the corner for a ground-rule double.

Their next chance came in the bottom of the seventh. And it was baffling to me, I can only imagine it would be baffling to any A's fan.

Hudson and Mauer reached again, and ended up on second and third with two away. Instead of walking Jim Thome in order to face Danny Valencia, Jerry Blevins and the Athletics decided to pitch to Thome. Three pitches, three balls, and then Blevins...for some inexplicable reason...threw Thome a fastball.

Down the middle.

A 3-0 fastball, to Jim Thome, down the middle.

If you blinked you missed the ball landing in the right field seats. It was a rocket, and it was a thing of beauty. Thome's 580th career home run put the Twins up 4-0, and some lucky fan caught a home run ball from a future Hall of Famer. I hope he writes a letter of gratitude to the Oakland organization, and to Blevins specifically, because I'm still not sure why it happened.

Jon Rauch came on to pitch the eighth, and proceeded to give up a pair of hits and a walk before getting pulled. Jesse Crain relieved him with one out and runners on second and third, and promptly picked up two outs to end the threat. Crain dropped a clearly unexpected curveball over the outside edge of the plate for a called third strike on Cust--the one guy in the lineup to be even moderately afraid of. Matt Capps retired the side for his 30th save of the season, his fourth as a Twin.

  • Cliff Pennington made a great play to end the bottom of the fifth inning, ranging far to his right to snag a hard-hit grounder from Michael Cuddyer and then throwing across the diamond to get him by a step. It kept the A's in the game at the time.
  • Oakland has some good, young starting pitching. Raise your hand if you're surprised. Thankfully we got them at a time where our own starters are pitching just as well.
  • Mauer was 2-for-3 with a pair of walks. Just another Joe Mauer day. Ho-hum.
  • Danny Valencia didn't hit the ball hard every time but he still picked up three hits, including his 11th double of the season.
  • Since his three-inning, five-run performance against the White Sox one month ago today, Slowey has pitched 34.1 innings and allowed just eight runs.
  • Alexi Casilla put down a perfect drag bunt to lead off the bottom of the eighth, and then promptly stole second base with ease. The man has skills. He's a lot of fun to watch when his head is in the game, unlike his errant throw from short that allowed Ellis to reach in the fifth.
  • Jason Repko made a fantastic leaping catch at the wall in left field today. I'm not saying he should start in front of anyone, especially not Delmon Young, but I don't think Young would have made that grab.

Kevin Slowey: 7 IP, 5 K, 3 BB, 0 H, 0 R, .483 WPA
Jim Thome: 1-for-4, HR, 3 RBI, R, .061 WPA
Joe Mauer: 2-for-3, 2 BB, R, .076 WPA
Danny Valencia: 3-for-4, 2B, .043 WPA
Jesse Crain: 0.2 IP, 1 K, 0 H, 0 R, .063 WPA
Orlando Hudson: 1-for-4, BB, 2 R, .048 WPA

Jon Rauch: 0.1 IP, 2 H, BB, 2 R, -.088 WPA