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Twins 6, Rangers 5: Blackburn Solid Again as Twins Sweep Rangers

Taking care of business? Check. (Barely.)

If this series is indeed a possible playoff preview, it would have to be a preview of the ALCS. And if it was a preview of the ALCS, those October Twins would have to like their chances. The Rangers are winless in six trips to Target Field this year, which seems to be a familar theme for them against contending clubs this season, and that has to be a source of frustration for them right now.

But it's a good sign for your Minnesota Twins.

The Twins took to the Rangers' starter early once again, with C.J. Wilson the victim today. Wilson struggled with control and the Minnesota hitters took notice, taking four walks and a hit-by-pitch. Michael Cuddyer's double in the first opened up a 2-0 lead, and a couple of walks led to another run in the second before Wilson finally settled in and put up zeros in the third, fourth and fifth innings. But his lack of command would come back to haunt him again in the sixth.

Leading 3-2, Jason Kubel, Delmon Young and J.J. Hardy began the inning with back-to-back-to-back singles. After a Matt Tolbert strikeout, Jason Repko earned a walk (although really, that first-pitch breaking ball was a Repko essentially earned a walk on what should have been a 5-1 count) to load the bases. Denard Span then fell behind 0-2 before taking four straight to walk in a run. Orlando Hudson's sacrifice fly plated the third run of the inning, and signaled the end of Minnesota's scoring.

It did not end Texas' night how it should have.

Jon Rauch took over in the eighth for Blackburn, and sent the Rangers down 1-2-3. He came back out for the ninth, allowing an Ian Kinsler leadoff single before striking out Mitch Moreland and Matt Treanor. Then the wheels momentarily came off.

Julio Borbon doubled into the gap, scoring Kinsler. At 6-3, Matt Capps came on for a one-out save that got very, very messy. Cristian Guzman and Michael Young both singled, making it 6-4. David Murphy walked. The bases were loaded, and what had started as a four-run lead with just one out to go looked about to end in pain.

Vladimir Guerrero swung on a fat fastball right down the middle, and couldn't have hit on a more direct up-the-middle route if the baseball had been laser-guided. Orlando Hudson somehow fielded the ball but had no play. As Guzman scored from third base, Hudson was still drifting to his right with the ball, and noticed that Young had drifted around third. He slung the ball to Tolbert, who may or may not have tagged Young in time. I'm still not sure.

But third base umpire Alfonso Marquez called Young out. Not because Young had gone out of the baseline or because Tolbert tagged him, but because Young made physical contact with his third base coach, Dave Anderson.

Just like that, it was over.

Young went nuts. Anderson lost his mind. Ron Washington was pissed. But you know what? It happened. Marquez, who appeared to not be looking directly at the contact, must have seen it out of the corner of his eye. And on this occasion, of all occasions, the umpires made the right call. Good work on Hudson's part, for seeing Young getting too far around third. Good work on Marquez's part, for being aware enough to see the contact and make the right call. Too bad for the Rangers, who were on the verge of mounting an amazing comeback. Shame on Young and Anderson, for making a massive mental error (physical mental error?) and sabotaging the opportunity.

Who knows what would have happened in the next plate appearance. The game might still be going, or maybe Capps would have retired the next hitter. But it is what it is, and the Twins win. In every season a team needs its share of luck, and tonight Minnesota got part of that share.

Notes, studs and duds after the jump.

  • With runners at first and second and one out in the second inning, Ron Gardenhire went aggressive and called a double steal. It was successful. For the record, double steals are awesome when they work, they come off looking like a stroke of masterful execution. The Twins didn't net a run from the double-steal, no thanks to a wimpy fly out from Hudson and Wilson's quick reflexes on a Joe Mauer-scorched comebacker.
  • I mentioned in the game thread that Kubel's bat was probably wasted for his return, since he was facing a southpaw. Kubel made me look like an idiot, picking up two hits.
  • Joe Mauer was hitless. But he did smack the hell out of the ball a couple of times. He was the guy hit by Wilson in the first inning, but clearly he's fine.
  • Nick Blackburn's seven-inning, two-run performance was great. Of his 16 outs from balls-in-play, 11 were grounders. Those are essential.
  • Matt Capps threw 16 pitches, and allowed three hits and a walk. He gets credit for an out, but really it was the stupidity of Michael Young and Dave Anderson.
  • Twins win. That is all.

Nick Blackburn, .231 WPA
Michael Cuddyer, .115 WPA
J.J. Hardy, .105 WPA
Dave Anderson & Michael Young: For Twins fans

Matt Capps
Dave Anderson & Michael Young: For Rangers fans