It was all Twins this afternoon. Tyler Duffey continues to show his mettle, and showed up today looking as good as he has all year. That has to make it tempting for a club desperately trying to hang in the Wild Card race, like Minnesota, to ride him every five days.
Over seven shutout innings Duffey scattered just three hits and a walk, striking out seven and more or less getting Angels batters to eat out of his hand. The curve was typically impressive, but he was able to locate the fastball and effectively work both sides of the plate regardless of the handedness of the batter.
Torii Hunter's 21st homer of the season got the scoring started in the second inning, taking Matt Shoemaker deep. Shoemaker wasn't himself in his return to action following a minor forearm issue, and was shelled for four runs over three and two thirds. Hunter's homer was just the beginning.
Minnesota would pick away all afternoon. After Aaron Hicks singled to lead off the third, Eddie Rosario took a 1-0 fastball and sent it into the flower pots in the right-center field alley. Hicks was at it again in the fourth, singling home Eduardo Nunez. That chased Shoemaker.
In the fifth, Cam Bedrosian (yes, son of former Twins reliever Steve Bedrosian) did the heavy lifting for the Twins offense. He loaded the bases on a walk, two singles (who do we blame for Miguel Sano being in that run-down, by the way), and a hit batter, before walking Suzuki on five pitches and forcing in the game's fifth run. Mike Scioscia then brought in Cory Rasmus, who walked Aaron Hicks on five pitches for the game's sixth run. Free runs!
The Twins' last two runs came off of a surprisingly massive home run off the bat of Joe Mauer. With a runner on and one out in the bottom of the eighth, Mauer turned on a fastball from somebody named Wesley Wright and pulled it into the second deck in the left-center field gap. It was Mauer's ninth home run of the season, and he absolutely demolished that pitch. It was a 3-1 offering that came in high. Joe did exactly what you'd like him to do.
While the offense was impressive today, Tyler Duffey was the player of the game. On the heels of a double-header where the bullpen was relied upon pretty heavily, seven innings of shutout baseball was an impressive performance for a rookie. Casey Fien, who escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth, and Glen Perkins, who gave up the Angels' only run to Jett Bandy (Jett? Just name the kid "Apple" or "Toothpaste" or "Seven" and go all-in). It was a nice moment for Bandy, because even if you don't make it as a player it's still pretty incredible to homer in your first career at-bat.
Every win is critical at this point in the season. This one keeps the Twins level with the Angels, and it also keeps them 2.5 games back of the Astros after Houston beat the A's. Minnesota is off tomorrow, but the Angels and Astros start a three-game set. At this point, I have to believe that LA winning two of three would be the best for the Twins.
The first three games of the series?