Kyle Gibson turned in one of his best performances of the year in Game 1 of Wednesday's double-header, striking out nine over six shutout innings. He's turned in a career-high 194.2 innings this season, 30 more than the next closest pitcher on the staff, and his six frames last night have lowered his ERA to 3.84. If he doesn't start on Sunday, Gibson will finish 2015 with 32 starts - 17 will have been quality starts.
Backing up Gibson was some nice offense, starting with Joe Mauer's first-inning home run. It's Joe's tenth of the season, but just take a moment to appreciate the beauty of not just the results of the at-bat, but the swing and the quality of contact that Mauer made on Hector Carrasco's fastball. That's a 95mph fastball that Mauer hit - on a frozen rope of a line drive - to straightaway center field.
It can be difficult to understand how someone who looks that good swinging a bat, who can achieve a home run on that kind of a batted ball, who has achieved so much throughout the course of his career, can struggle at the plate the way he has in 2014 and 2015. Mauer would double in Minnesota's four-run fourth, his 33rd of the year.
A Trevor Plouffe single and a Torii Hunter bases-clearing double would bring home all four runs for the Twins in the fourth inning. Byron Buxton would be responsible for the club's last two runs, singling home Eduardo Nunez in the seventh and hitting a solo home run to lead off the top of the ninth. Cleveland's run came off the bat of Jason Kipnis, who drove home Jerry Sands off of Blaine Boyer in the bottom of the seventh.
Paul Molitor lifted Boyer with one out, after he'd allowed three hits and Cleveland was threatening to get back in the ballgame. Neal Cotts came on and stopped the bleeding, with Casey Fien and Michael Tonkin closing out the eighth and ninth innings respectively to seal the win.
This one hurt, as Mike Pelfrey put the Twins in an early hole from which they couldn't escape. Two walks and a single loaded the bases for the Indians in the first, but Pelfrey was able to get out of that one. The second inning wasn't as kind.
With the game already 2-0 with two outs in the second, Francisco Lindor grounded softly to Joe Mauer. Mauer flipped the ball to Pelfrey who was covering first, but Lindor was called safe. Molitor challenged the play, and Pelfrey himself is still convinced he was on the bag, but without incontrovertible visual evidence the umpires weren't able to overturn the call.
Looks out to me, but what do I know? It's only incontrovertible evidence. Anyway, Pelfrey's very next offering was a run-scoring wild pitch, and when Carlos Santana followed that up with a single to make it 4-0 Molitor had seen enough.
J.R. Graham allowed a run in the third, and Lindor's two-run shot off of Brian Duensing in the fourth made it 7-0. Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario would hit solo shots in the eighth and ninth innings, but the moment of the game may have been Jose Ramirez's three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh.
Suffice it to say that the Twins weren't very happy.
I'm pretty sure there were more than a couple of F-Bombs there, most of them from Kurt Suzuki.
Even the Indians announcers were unimpressed, and it's easy to see why. Terry Francona was equally unimpressed, saying "Nice, good swing. Poor judgement."
As fun as it would be to point out the fact that Ramirez really hasn't been very good this season, the part that should be putting the Twins' minds (and our minds) at ease is this: Jose Ramirez will be watching the playoffs from the couch this month. Because his Cleveland Indians were eliminated by the Minnesota Twins (with some help from the Houston Astros). Minnesota's fate may very well end up the same, but not yet. Ramirez's homer wasn't the kill shot in Game 2, it was just more gasoline on the blaze.
Ricky Nolasco, who surrendered the home run, promised that Ramirez will "get his." I'm not sure what that means, although it's easy to imagine that Ramirez might get a fastball in the ribs if he starts the series finale today. Personally I'd just rather see the Twins give him an 0-fer, which he's used to seeing this year anyway.
Remember this from yesterday?
The Twins' outcome falls right in the middle of that pack, and all things considered come out of a split double-header no worse for wear. With four games to go, there's still everything to play for. And since the Astros off today, it's big opportunity for Minnesota to take control of their own destiny.
ROLL CALL! (Gamethreads combined)
|3||less cowbell, more 'neau||77|
|13||Bloopers and Practical Jokes||11|
COMMENT OF THE GAMETHREADS