Through seven innings at Yankee Stadium last night, it looked like a repeat of Monday night's 4-3 loss. Yankee home runs in both of the first two innings, putting the Twins starter in a quick 4-0 hole? Check. Very little from the Twins lineup over the first half of the game? Check. Twins starter settles into his groove and posts zeroes for another 4-5 innings? Check.
After seven innings, the Twins had done absolutely nothing against Yankees starter CC Sabathia, who retired the last 17 batters he had faced. But Sabathia had thrown 104 pitches, and with a four run lead New York manager Joe Girardi went to the bullpen. And in a move that I'm sure will be discussed all day on New York sports radio, Girardi decided to go with his "Eighth Inning Guy", Rafael Soriano. Danny Valencia led off the inning with a walk. Justin Morneau (pinch hitting for Jason Repko) lined out sharply to right field, then Jim Thome (pinch hitting for Alexi Casilla) walked and Denard Span lined a single to left to load the bases with one out. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, whose name apparently means "Called Strike Three" in Japanese, struck out looking to bring up Joe Mauer in a clutch situation. Soriano wasn't even close with four pitches, walking in the Twins first run. Then the Twins got lucky (finally) in Yankee Stadium, with a Delmon Young bloop double down the right field line that Nick Swisher couldn't quite get. Since the count was full, Mauer was off with the pitch and scored from first to tie the game.
The comeback was complete, but there was still work to be done. After Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth, Denard Span worked out a walk from reliever Boone Logan. Nishioka was asked to bunt Span over to second, but he failed, fouling his first two attempts. But he redeemed himself with an 0-2 line single to right field, putting runners on first and third. Finally, Mauer drove in his first run of the year (I'm not counting a bases loaded walk as "driving" in a run) with a grounder past a drawn in Robinson Cano. 5-4 Twins.
At this point, I'll be honest. While I hoped for the best from Joe Nathan in the 10th, given his previous shaky outing in Toronto and past history in New York, I feared for the worst. Three batters later, Nathan had closed out the game and the Twins were 2-3 on the season. Hopefully the Twins can make it two in a row, throwing Carl Pavano against Freddy Garcia tonight. Notes, studs and duds after the jump.
- STUD: Delmon Young didn't do much all game, grounding into a double play and generally beating the first pitch into the ground each at bat, but he came up big with the bases loaded in the 8th. About as impressive as the bloop double was the fact Delmon worked David Robertson into a full count, which allowed Mauer to score from first.
- STUD: Joe Mauer, for driving in the winning run and walking twice.
- STUD: Brian Duensing. After a shaky first two innings, giving up home runs to Mark Teixeira and Andruw Jones, he allowed only three more base runners and completed seven innings.
- STUD: Matt Capps. Six up, six down in the bottom of the eighth and ninth. He really looked sharp, keeping the Yankees hitters off balance.
- STUD: Joe Nathan. Pitched a perfect 10th inning for his second save. His command looked better, although his velocity is still down. Really good to see him get that Yankee Stadium monkey off his back.
- DUD: Joe Girardi, but of course I'll take it. I understand taking Sabathia out, it's only April. But his "cookbook" seems even more strict than Gardy's. Why throw Soriano out there again with a four run lead? He must have zero faith in Robertson, Pedro Feliciano, Boone Logan, of his "Seventh Inning Guy" Joba Chamberlain to get a few outs.
- DUD: Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Up in a big spot in the 8th, he struck out looking. Then he failed to get a bunt down in the 10th. Yes, he redeemed himself with a line single, but at the end of the day he needs to get the job done, which I suspect he'll do once he gets more comfortable.
- DUD: Our "Friendly Grammatical Policeman" White Sox fan for his "Thy and Thine" comment in the game thread. I believe "Enemy" still starts with a vowel.
- During last night's game, Dick and Bert noted that the Twins are one of only two teams in MLB who have no players on the disabled list. So we have that going for us, and total consciousness of course.
- I know it's early in the season, but Mauer (.143), Young (.143), Michael Cuddyer (.133), Valencia (.125), Morneau (.188) and Thome (.143) are all below the Mendoza Line. I'm sure they'll turn it around for the most part, but the bats look like wet noodles out there.
- Duensing, Capps and Nathan helped themselves out by only allowing two walks on the night.