Danny Valencia hit an two-run triple, the Twins pushed across a couple of runs despite early gaffes, Scott Baker pitched pretty well, and frankly, that's about all it takes to beat the Mariners these days. 6-3 was the final, and though I don't wish to be disrespectful to the Seattle baseball club, they did not play very well.
The Mariners started Ichiro, who is hitting his usual .315 or so, and then eight other guys hitting .250 or below. In the field, they committed two errors - one a Casey Kotchman wave at a catchable throw at first base that allowed a Twins run to score. Matt Tuiasosopo in left field dived at a two fly balls, catching neither.
They got their first run when Ichiro tripled and scored on a groundout, their second when they strung together four singles off of the tiring Baker and the debuting Randy Flores. In the eighth, though, a single, a Michael Cuddyer error, and a walk loaded the bases with nobody out for Seattle. Matt Guerrier entered the game for the Twins. I feared the worst. Guerrier fell behind Franklin Gutierrez 2-0. I closed my eyes. Guerrier had to come over the plate with a meatball... a single tear rolled down my cheek... and Gutierrez popped it up to Cuddyer in foul ground. Of course, catcher Adam Moore bounced into a 6-4-3 double play immediately afterwards, and the Twins got out of the jam.
It was not an exceptional night for the Seattles. They did add another run in the ninth off of Jon Rauch, on a Chone Figgins single, but it was too little, too late.
On the other side, Minnesota scored in the first and second innings despite screwing up both times. Denard Span singled to lead off the game, followed by an Orlando Hudson double to left center. It would have been second and third with nobody out and Joe Mauer at the plate, except third base coach Scott Ullger had another one of his famous brainless moments and sent Span home. Span was out by ten feet. You have to laugh to keep from crying, with Ullger. Anyway, Hudson went to third on the throw, then scored on a Mauer single.
In the second, Valencia walked and Jason Repko singled, which made Ron Gardenhire decide that Alexi Casilla should bunt. Casilla popped the bunt up, which ended up resulting in Valencia being erased at third on a force. Luckily, though, Seattle starter Jason Vargas threw an extremely wild pitch to move the runners along, and Drew Butera hit a sacrifice fly for run #2.
Valencia's sixth-inning triple scored two more, back-to-back doubles from Hudson and Mauer in the seventh added one, and that was all Minnesota would need to take the opening game of the series. Baker finished six and two-thirds, striking out four and walking three while giving up five hits. Between the third and the seventh, Baker retired ten straight, but couldn't pitch out of the seventh.
Randy Flores made his Twins debut in relief, and did pretty well, getting three infield grounders against the five guys he faced. He also walked a hitter and gave up a line-drive single, and thanks to an infield single and an error actually retired only one batter, so I suspect you can see what you want to see in his performance, whatever that might be.
Twins fans hoped that a game against the Mariners, combined with the Sox hosting the Yankees, would result in an increased lead in the division; but Chicago beat New York 9-4. The takeaway from this game, I suppose, is some relief - at least the Twins put together a reasonable performance and beat a struggling team.
Stud: We must single out Valencia, who walked, drove in two with a triple, and made a very nice catch in the first inning while hanging over the dugout rail. Several others deserve mention, including Hudson, who had two doubles; Mauer, who had three hits; and Guerrier, who turned a bases-loaded-nobody-out disaster into zero runs, somehow.
Dud: Delmon Young ripped a shot off of the left-field wall... and ended up with only a single. This should probably never happen. He also struck out three times.
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