Twins 3, Blue Jays 2 (11 innings)
Glad that's over with. After 10 straight losses, the Twins finally found a way to beat the Jays for the first time since 2007. It wasn't easy, even though Glen Perkins, Joe Nathan and Jesse Crain cooled off the hottest-hitting lineup in baseball, holding them to just 2 R on 7 H and 1 BB over 11 IP.
Perkins was a hard luck loser in his last start, and this was a hard luck no decision for him. He allowed 8 baserunners in 8 IP, but 5 of them came in the 2 innings in which the Jays scored. I was just getting ready to compliment Delmon Young on his range in LF after hauling in Kevin Millar's deep drive to the corner when he turned the wrong way on Rod Barajas' 2-out liner, letting it sail over his head to drive in the game's first run.
After that, the Jays were pretty quiet, their only threat coming on a 2-out double down the LF line in the 8th. The ball took a crazy hop in front of the diving Joe Crede - had it stayed down, I think Crede would have at least been able to knock it down and hold Alex Rios to a single. As it was, he reached second, and Perkins fell behind Vernon Wells 2-0. Rick Anderson came out to talk things over, and Wells promptly lined the next pitch into CF for the game-tying single. How many times have we seen those mid-AB visits from Anderson result in hits already this season? What are they talking about?
Should Perkins have been pitching to a RH batter with the tying run on 2nd and Jesse Crain warmed up in the bullpen? Maybe not, but he'd pitched a great game up to that point, and I'd rather see Gardy err on the side of trusting the starters - that's probably going to be the right move more times than not over the course of the season. I love that he's stuck with Perkins for 8 IP in each of his first 2 starts. Perkins may not have the best stuff of the Twins starters, but he probably has the best style of pitching. Usually he throws at least 2 pitches inside to every hitter, frequently missing too far in. That tends to produce some less than assertive swings at outside pitches. I wish Slowey would do that.
I said yesterday that this would be a good game to try to get to the bullpen early. Denard Span got the Twins off to a good start, making rookie Ricky Romero throw 10 pitches leading off the game. However, the next 2 batters swung early and were retired on 3 pitches. The aggressive approach from the Twins enabled Romero to match Perkins' 8 IP. I think they would have been more successful had they been more selective. As one example, Romero didn't throw a single pitch in the strike zone to Justin Morneau in the 8th, yet Morneau struck out.
Speaking of swinging at balls, if the Twins face Scott Downs again in this series, I suggest they just keep the bats on their shoulders. He's struck out 5 of the 7 men he's faced, 4 of those on curveballs in the dirt. I don't know that he's thrown 3 pitches in the zone to any batter in this series.
The Twins' big offensive break came when Alexi Casilla's would-be DP ball was bobbled by 2B Aaron Hill - he still got Casilla at 1st, but Span advanced to 2nd and scored on Morneau's subsequent ground rule double. Their bad break also came off the bat of Casilla when he attempted to sacrifice Span to 3rd base in the 6th inning. The bunt was too hard and too close to the pitcher - though it slipped past him and Casilla was able to reach with an IF hit, Span had to head back toward the bag and couldn't advance. Had he made it to 3rd, he would have easily scored on Morneau's towering fly just over the leaping Rios off the baggie in RF. Had the Twins managed a 3rd run there, it could have been a win for Perkins and a shorter night.
Finally, some information disseminated about Joe Mauer's status. He's had two successful days of running, and is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with the Fort Myers Miracle next week. Once he's comfortable at the plate, he can be recalled. I hope he'll be ready to go by next weekend's series with division rival Cleveland. It will be great to have somebody in the lineup besides Span taking some pitches.
Also, Scott Baker was activated from the DL, and the Twins elected to send Brian Duensing back to Rochester. I find this news mystifying, not because R.A. Dickey didn't earn the roster spot - he clearly did - but because nothing has transpired in the first 9 games of the season that made the choice between those 2 players any easier. Duensing performed adequately in March, and his 3 IP in long relief last weekend were also adequate. Dickey looked very good in March, and has done fine in 2 appearances this past week.
Here's my problem: if the Twins are OK with having Dickey stick on the roster, why were they so quick to put Baker on the DL? He was able to pitch 7 innings in Fort Myers last Friday, the same night Dickey started in his place. Why didn't they wait on the DL decision until Baker had thrown his side session, see that he was feeling OK, push him back a few days if necessary so he could pitch when he actually pitched? Why sacrifice a start from one of your better pitchers at the beginning of what promises to be another tight division race, if not to give Dickey a chance to prove that he didn't really belong? I don't get it.