This game boiled down to a few crucial moments. Let's see if I can sum them up in a concise and accurate manner, as I may or may not be distracted by my recording of Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus.
- Trevor Plouffe did not have a good game in the field, personified by a third inning that saw not one but two throws to first base sail off course. On the first play he didn't set his feet, and naturally the ball didn't go where he wanted it to. A Danny Valencia error later, Plouffe had an opportunity to end the inning on a routine grounder. He charged it, being aggressive as he's been told, but he didn't get enough on the ball. The ball float up the line, away from first base and toward right field for an error, allowing a run to score which pushed the game to a 3-1 Angels advantage. If Plouffe makes the first play, there's two away and Valencia probably doesn't have to field a bunt and force an error. If Plouffe makes the second play, at least the Twins escape down just 2-1 instead of 3-1.
- Justin Morneau had two balls slip past his diving efforts this afternoon, each leading to runs. Erick Aybar's triple in the third snuck by him, which allowed both runners to score. Then, in the top of the eighth, Bobby Abreu did the same thing, although it led to just the one run. If Morneau makes even one of those stops we're looking at a completely different game. If he makes both plays, we're probably talking about a Twins win.
- In the bottom of the sixth the Twins had a chance for a real threat, even after Michael Cuddyer's double play erased Morneau's leadoff single. Delmon Young singled and Valencia doubled with two away, putting runners on second and third. Of course Jim Thome was unavailable again today, meaning there was nobody worth pinch hitting for Drew Butera. Butera flied out weakly to right field. It just wasn't a fair matchup. Dan Haren certainly wasn't at his best today, but in that situation the Twins should have been able to call on a pinch hitter to give them a better shot at scoring the run(s). Instead Butera lasted all of one pitch, and the sixth ended with the Twins still down 4-2.
- Carl Pavano pitched eight innings of five-run baseball. Not great. But he wasn't bad, either. His defense let him down on a number of occasions, and the worst part about this isn't the fact that the Twins lost today. I mean, I don't want to see Minnesota lose but honestly the season has to be all but toast by this point. But I would like to see certain players perform well, in order to increase their perceived value to other interested parties. If Pavano can string together three or four good starts in a row, his market value will rise accordingly. And with the trade season on the near horizon, that would be good for the Twins' future.
- Jim Hoey came on for the ninth and proceeded to get three pitches into the inning before he was taken deep. His run made the score 6-3, and it would be a significant run.
- Matt Tolbert did pinch hit for Butera in the ninth and earned a walk. Following a Plouffe flyout Tolbert stole second and then scored on Span's single. Even Alexi Casilla continued his strong week, and picked up a crucial one-out walk to put the tying run on first base. Jason Kubel, who had delivered Minnesota's first run for a 1-0 lead in the first, went down swinging on a 100-mph fastball from Jordan Walden. Justin Morneau did come through, scoring Span and moving Casilla to third which brought the Twins to within a run. Michael Cuddyer, fed a steady diet of fastballs, worked a 2-1 count before blasting another 100-mph fastball deep to center field...where the speedy Peter Bourjos made the catch to end the game.
It turned out to be another Twins loss, and another series defeat, but at least there was life in the ninth. I justified Hoey's home run by saying it wasn't his fault--the ball was so far up and in it shouldn't have been anything worse than a jam shot. But it went over the fence. In the same vein of looking for silver linings and moral victories in gut wrenching defeats and cloudy skies, at least the Twins didn't just roll over when facing a three-run deficit in the ninth.
There's a lot of Twins baseball to talk about after this weekend, but I'll be honest: it's going on 2am here in the UK and I'm going to bed. But I'll be doing some extra writing tomorrow so check out the site for some extra content for Memorial day, and tonight I'll also be posting another Player of the Game poll.
Vent away, folks. Vent away.