Twins fans and baseball fans in general will have loved this game, because it had everything. Great pitching, lots of runs, some fantastic defense, a comeback, and a great finish? Check, check, check, check, check. But the best story of this game, and the weekend, is that the Twins took two of three from the AL West-leading Houston Astros. If you were looking for a sign that Minnesota can hang with the American League's big boys, here it is.
Ervin Santana was sublime. He shut out the Astros over seven frames, striking out ten with impeccable command. Whatever issues he may have had in recent outings regarding the tipping of pitches or a crisis of faith in his stuff were non-existent. It was almost masterful, as Santana used his fastball and slider to keep hitters guessing. All ten strikeouts came on one of those two pitches, and Santana wasn't afraid to use his changeup either.
What made it such an impressive start was that, until the two-run sixth and four-run seventh, Santana was pitching to protect a 1-0 lead. He got plenty of help, mind you. He picked Carlos Gomez off second in the second. Chris Herrmann made possibly the best throw I've ever seen to get Marwin Gonzalez by a good few feet when Gonzalez tried to steal second in the fourth. Brian Dozier managed to stay with a pop-up that was getting blown around. Byron Buxton flashed his speed by coming into shallow left field to snag what would have been a Texas Leaguer by falling in between Shane Robinson and Eduardo Escobar; Buxton made the catch on his feet, by the way. Eduardo Escobar came in on a grounder and managed to throw out Jose Altuve at first by a hair.
But the star was clearly Santana. This was him at his finest, and it was beautiful.
Eddie Rosario's sac fly in the first put Minnesota on the board early. In the sixth, Eduardo Nunez caught a hanging breaking ball at the letters and hit it into next week. He knew it, too; the ball bounced off the facing of the second deck in left-center field. In the seventh the Twins hit for the cycle in the span of four hitters: Brian Dozier tripled, Escobar doubled, Joe Mauer singled, and Miguel Sano topped it off with a two-run homer. Four batters, four runs, and suddenly it was 7-0. Sano's homer left the yard in about three quarters of a second, on a frozen rope into the home run porch. That guy can get around on anything.
It looked like a blowout, and for a few minutes it was. Casey Fien pitched a scoreless eighth, turning it over to Ryan O'Rourke for mop-up duty in the ninth. Four batters into the inning Chris Carter hit a three-run homer. O'Rourke got the second out before giving up another single, and Paul Molitor had seen enough. He brought in Trevor May, who threw one pitch to Altuve and then watched it sail over the wall in left field. It had taken a matter of minutes, but Houston had brought themselves to within two runs.
But May recovered, striking out Gonzalez to lock it up and give the Twins the series victory. Texas also won today, but the Angels lost. Minnesota remains one and a half games back of the Rangers for the second Wild Card spot, and Los Angeles drops to three and a half back.
Minnesota played well this weekend. If you haven't done so already, it's probably time to concede that...yeah...these guys aren't half bad. And they sure as hell deserve to be where they are: contending for a place in October.
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COMMENT OF THE GAME THREAD
DavidRF: "That ball was the truth. He hit it out there."