Andrew Heaney and Kyle Gibson were both serviceable this afternoon, with Heaney completing six and Gibson actually pitching into the seventh. Interestingly, when Gibson was lifted with one out in the seventh, he was replaced by...Glen Perkins?
It's a move that the number crunchers among us have been waiting for: the team's best reliever entering the game in a non-save situation, because that non-save situation might just be the game's biggest situation. Why save your best bullet for the ninth inning when the game could get out of hand in the seventh?
The Angels had already pushed across one run, making it 3-1 with runners on the corners and one out. Perkins came on and promptly struck out Kole Calhoun. With Mike Trout up next, Paul Molitor once again played the numbers card and went to right-hander Casey Fien. Fien got Trout looking to end the inning.
And then Miguel Sano tied it up with a two-run shot in the bottom half. It was a thing of beauty, especially considering how hard it had been for the Twins to come by base runners when Heaney had been on the mound. His no-hitter went until the prior inning, when Eddie Rosario's triple broke it up.
Defense played a big role today, in some shape and form. Phil Miller, whose strike zone was all over the place, called a foul ball fair in the seventh just prior to that fateful third run; Joe Mauer perhaps shouldn't have been so eager to make that play, but not doubt he also didn't want the ball to roll back into fair territory. David Murphy's double down the line in the sixth could have perhaps been a triple but certainly would have plated a run, but a fan reached into the field of play and picked up the ball to hold runners at second and third. But Trevor Plouffe's quick reaction at third in the top of the eighth kept Albert Pujols from reaching to kick off the inning. And perhaps the game's biggest defensive play benefited the Angels, when Kurt Suzuki's bunt with runners on the corners and one out wasn't deep enough (or shallow enough) to allow Plouffe to score and give Minnesota the lead.
After the seventh, both teams looked like they were too eager to just put a ball over the fence and end it. To illustrate: the teams were a combined 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position. Brian Dozier's one-out double in the eighth was wasted. Torii Hunter would single to lead off the 12th, but pinch runner Byron Buxton would be stranded.
To be fair, the Twins' bullpen largely did its job. After Perkins and Fien, Trevor May and Kevin Jepsen gave the team three scoreless innings. Blaine Boyer even gave Minnesota a scoreless eleventh.
But the twelfth was another matter. With Boyer still on the hill, Dozier booted a play that allowed Daniel Robertson to reach as the inning's leadoff hitter. Boyer walked Chris Iannetta. A sac bunt moved both runners up.
Both runners belonged to Boyer, but Molitor went to Ryan O'Rourke to face left-hander Kole Calhoun. Calhoun chopped a grounder to short, but the throw home wasn't fast enough and Robertson scored to give Los Angeles their 4-3 lead. Suzuki did get the out at first. O'Rourke was lifted for Michael Tonkin, who intentionally walked Trout and unintentionally walked Pujols before coming up with a massive strikeout to end the inning.
Good pitching for both sides in game one, but the Angels snuck through with a big run when it mattered. Game two is coming up.