No matter how many different ways I write that, I can't quite convince myself that it actually happened.
The Twins' first four hitters - Denard Span, Matt Tolbert, Jason Kubel, and Jim Thome - combined to strike out eight times and go 1-18. The second half of the lineup picked up the slack, though, as Michael Cuddyer doubled and singled, Danny Valencia picked up two hits, and Butera drove them around the bases, doubling the pair home in the second inning to give the Twins the lead.
On the mound, Francisco Liriano had what has to be called an average night. He gave up just two singles through the first six innings, but he walked five batters in that span so the bases were plenty full of Orioles despite his seeming dominance. And in the seventh, he gave up a pair of solo home runs to Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, and had to depart mid-inning.
With the 3-0 Twins lead therefore cut to 3-2, the Twins brought on Jose Mijares, which as often as not lately seems to be a mistake. Mijares forced a fielder's choice and then hit Nick Markakis square in the middle of the back, leaving it to Jim Hoey to get the final out with the tying run in scoring position.
Let's take a moment to speak about Jim Hoey. He hadn't pitched in the majors since 2007. He was facing the team that traded him in the off-season. And with the game on the line, he finished the seventh and got a 1-2-3 eighth inning, against the 3-4-5-6 hitters in the Baltimore lineup, to push a one-run lead into the final frame.
Minnesota plated two more in the ninth thanks to Baltimore reliever Kevin Gregg walking two guys and giving up two hits and uncorking a wild pitch and generally being quite helpful. Those runs proved to be pretty useful, too, as it meant that the Luke Scott home run off Matt Capps in the bottom of the ninth merely made the final score a bit closer.
Your stars of the game, in order, are Butera, Hoey, and Cuddyer, for obvious reasons, I think. Your duds (in descending order) were Alexi Casilla (decent defense but he might as well use an inflatable bat), Jason Kubel (three strikeouts, but at least he had a single), and Jim Thome (three strikeouts and he nearly punched an umpire.)
Other game notes:
- Baltimore lost its eighth in a row, the longest streak in the majors this year. The Twins, meanwhile, won two in a row for the first time this year.
- Home plate umpire Chris Guccione tossed Ron Gardenhire from the dugout in the eighth inning. Near as I can tell, this was because Guccione kept calling pitches six inches outside strikes, and Gardenhire told him about it, and Guccione put the rabbit ears on and tossed him. Jim Thome, usually mild-mannered with umpires, also screamed at Guccione for a strike-three call to end the eighth; the ump probably would have thrown Thome out too, except for some combination of shock and fear.
- The Twins sent Alex Burnett back down to Triple-A after the game. They called up righthander Eric Hacker to replace him. Hacker has thrown only three major-league innings, for the Pirates back in 2009, but he's had two scoreless starts for Rochester this year - giving up four hits and no walks in 11 innings - and so he's now the bullpen's long man.
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