Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. This is simply ridiculous, as Alex Burnett, Dusty Hughes and Jim Hoey managed to blow a FIVE RUN LEAD in the eighth inning last night at Target Field, with the Angels ultimately coming back to win the game 6-5. As Twins fans, we can't expect pitchers like Burnett, Hughes and Hoey to be shutdown guys, but at the very least it seems an ERA under 45.00 should be expected. Then again, while it didn't seem to make much of a difference at the time, Twins base runners managed to run the offense out of at least two runs, but more on that later.
Alexi Casilla started the scoring in the bottom of the first with a line drive to left center field that Angels center fielder Peter Bourjos failed a diving catch, the ball rolled to the wall, and Denard Span (who walked) scored from second base. Unfortunately, even when Casilla does something right he manages a fail, as he missed first base and had to circle back before advancing only to second base. If he is on third base, he scores on Jason Kubel's ground ball and it's a two run lead. Instead, Justin Morneau (pop out) and Michael Cuddyer (line out) ended the inning without scoring Casilla. In the third inning, Casilla smashed a ball off the base of the right field wall, and Kubel scored him with a single to put the Twins up 2-0. In the fifth, Kubel hit a two run single to extend the lead to four. But after a Morneau single to load the bases, Cuddyer hit an apparent sacrifice fly to right center field, which Kubel inexplicably watched, thought was falling in for a hit, and was doubled off second to end the inning.
Absent the base running gaffes, at this point it should be a 6-0 lead, one that extended to seven runs after Justin Morneau's run scoring single in the 7th inning. The way Twins starter Scott Baker was pitching, it didn't look like a 5-0 or 7-0 lead was going to matter, as he was in command all night, pitching seven scoreless innings and giving up six hits and striking out 6 with no walks. Unfortunately, Baker had 106 pitches through seven innings, so it was off to the bullpen to mop it up. The inning started ominously, as Peter Bourjos led off with a one hopper to Morneau, who bobbled before flipping to Alex Burnett, who was late getting to the first base bag. Granted, Bourjos can fly, but it was yet another mental error for the Twins, one that would come back to haunt. Burnett was pulled after walking Maicer Izturis, in favor of Dusty Hughes. It took only one pitch, a 90-MPH fastball right down main street, for Erick Aybar to smash a three run home run and cut the lead to 5-3. Bobby Abreu grounded a ball just out of the reach of a diving Cuddyer, and it was shower time for Hughes as well.
At this point, with only a two run lead, one might expect to see Joe Nathan. But Nathan was apparently not available tonight, because Jim Hoey came in. Hoey battled Torii Hunter, but ultimately lost as Hunter doubled off the right field and Alberto Callaspo singled in a run, still zero outs. Russell Branyan tied the game with a sacrifice fly, and the comeback was complete. In the end, it took a nice play by Casilla to end the inning without additional damage. In the top of the ninth, Hoey stayed on in relief, and Bourjos led off with a triple and scored one batter later to put the Angels up 6-5. The Twins made a feeble comeback attempt at a two out rally in the ninth, but Delmon Young ended the game with a weak fly ball to right center field.
All in all, this was perhaps the most disappointing loss of the season for the Twins, as the bullpen is simply that ugly right now. Not sure where to go from here, but studs, duds and notes are after the jump.
- Alexi Casilla: 3-4, 2 R, RBI. As bad as Alexi has been this season, it's nice to see him heating up. He's 8 for his last 13, and has raised his batting average from .188 to .234 over the past four games. And he had a couple nice defensive plays at shortstop.
- Scott Baker: 7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 6 SO, 0 BB. Baker had his good stuff last night, his fastball had good movement and he was all over the low outside corner all night.
- Jason Kubel: 2-5, 3 RBI. Even with the base running fail, I have to give "stud" status to someone driving in three runs.
- Dusty Hughes: 0 IP, 2H, 2R, HR. How is he still on the roster? It's time we designate Mr. Hughes and bring up someone like Kyle Waldrop, who may actually have a future with this team.
- Alex Burnett: 0 IP, H, BB, 2R. First, the mental error late getting to first base, then the walk. But while hindsight may be 20-20, why not stick with him for another batter?
- Jim Hoey: 1.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R. He was the best of the three in the 8th, and that's not saying much.
- Ron Gardenhire: For pulling Jim Thome out of the game for Trevor Plouffe pinch running at first in the 7th. Of course, Plouffe ended up batting with a runner on first and two out in the bottom of the ninth. How many times do we need to see this happen?
- Base running: Left another couple runs out there tonight.
- Delmon Young: 0-5, SO. He's now batting .206, was chasing everything in sight.
- Baker actually executed a run down last night, freezing Torii Hunter off third base after a come backer to the mound. He ran right at Hunter, then forced him back to third base. One throw, one out. Just the way it's supposed to be done.
- Peter Bourjos is crazy athletic. He robbed Jim Thome of his 593rd home run in the sixth, leaping at the wall and getting the ball right off the top of the fence.
- Baker's strikeout of Bobby Abreu in the third inning was a thing of beauty. All over the low and outside corner, as good a hitter as Abreu is, he didn't have a chance.
- It wouldn't have made a difference, but Casilla was jogging home on the Cuddyer sacrifice fly when Kubel was doubled off second. It looked like he saw Kubel was going to be doubled off, and he jogged as a result, but in that situation if he scores before the out at second the run counts.