The Twins came back from their road trip on a 3-game losing streak. During those 3 games, they had allowed the opposing starters to amass 24 IP while issuing only 3 BB. They took out all their aggression on poor Dave Bush, who retired just 1 of 10 hitters while walking 2 and allowing more runs than the Twins had accumulated in the previous 3 games combined. The Brewers brought 13 pitchers to this series, and quickly ran out. The Twins eventually led 15-0.
Nick Blackburn continued his low-strikeout sorcery, taking a shutout into the 8th before it was broken up on a long HR by our old buddy, Carlos Gomez. He stood at the plate, admiring his handiwork, flipping his bat in Joe Mauer's face. He couldn't help himself. He's a knucklehead. Give me the quiet, solid contributions of Denard Span and JJ Hardy every time.
Speaking of Hardy, he wasn't able to come off the DL in time to face his former team, so the Twins brought up Trevor Plouffe to start at SS. He followed in the footsteps of Luke Hughes and Wilson Ramos by getting a H in his first MLB PA, not to mention assists from the first 2 hitters of the game. By the end of the series, he had failed to get a hit in 3 opportunities with the bases loaded. He's gonna fit right in around here.
Twins 8, Brewers 7 (12 innings)
Yes, the bases loaded. It became apparent to me over the course of the weekend that the Brewers were employing a bold new defensive strategy vs. the Twins. Analysis of the season statistics to this point revealed that the Twins are at their absolute worst (hitting under .170) when the sacks are full. So, every time the Twins got somebody on base, the Brewers' pitchers would immediately load the bases, whether by serving up a BB, H or HBP, it didn't matter. Sure, there were a couple of RBI BB and some SF, but just the one H in that situation all weekend.
Pop quiz: who was worse in the 9th inning, Ron Mahay or Jon Rauch? For me, it Rauch by a mile. Mahay didn't record any outs, but at least the 2 guys who put the ball in play against him put it on the ground. Rauch came in with the bases chucked (no problem for the Brew Crew!) and it went: booming 2B, sharp single, line-out (thanks for saving my giant butt with a diving catch, Alexi Casilla!) DP, BB, booming 2B off the wall in LF. Holy crap, he sucked. But hey, the Twins are 2-0 in games in which he's blown a save.
Corey Hart had an awesome weekend. A couple of HR and some terrific, game-saving catches in RF, including a sprawling catch against the wall to rob Delmon Young of the would-be game-winner with, guess what, the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th. The only time he really screwed up was when he sent his throw well up the 3rd base line, allowing Mauer to come home easily with the game-winning R on a SF. Because the Twins can't get a hit with the bases loaded.
Twins 3, Brewers 4
Seriously, like Superman next to kryptonite, seeing the bases loaded takes hitters who would have swung the bat with authority with runners at the corners and brings them, sobbing, to their knees, trying to pull their batting helmets even further down over their heads. Milwaukee's decimated pitching staff, forced to shuffle it's intended spot starter when he was used extensively in extra innings on Saturday, gave up 11 H, 5 more BB (that made 23 for the series) and a HBP. But for all those baserunners, the Twins could only muster 3 R.
The non-beneficiary of that futility was, once again, Carl Pavano. He gave up a couple of HR, but was otherwise his usual, steady self, completing 8 IP while allowing a total of 8 baserunners. I consider that a QS. If 3 ER in 6 IP is quality, then 4 ER in 8 IP is even more quality. The ERA is the same, and those extra 2 IP are really valuable. Thanks, Pavano. I hope you didn't pull all your hair out.
Next up: the Yankees, and the Twins really need to win this series. Not just to prove that they can split with the defending champs. This Yankees team is really beat up, and has been forced to insert enough bench guys that I think the Twins will have to be considered the stronger lineup for this series. If they can't win against these Yankees, it's never gonna happen.
- Jason Kubel might want to get hip to the fact that opposing pitchers aren't going to give him fastballs in hitters counts. I've seen so many occasions this season in which he's been wildly out in front of a changeup that drifts under the strike zone, helping the pitcher out by turning a ball into a strike. If he's looking for a changeup ahead 2-0 on Saturday, the Twins win that game in 9 innings.
- Young had a really nice series, going 5 for 13 with a 2B and 5 RBI, plus 2 BB against 2 K. And it could have been 6 for 13 with 6 RBI had the RF been a little shorter. His game-tying ground-rule 2B in the 9th zipped over the left fielder's head, then his bid to win the game sailed to the wall in the RF corner. Power to all fields.
- Gardy threw away Jim Thome when he PH him with 1B open and Nick Punto on deck. That's an automatic IBB. He obviously preferred to have Punto hit with the bases loaded over Plouffe. I can't say I agree with that. If it had been Alexi Casilla on deck, that's different. He's got a knack for those walk-off hits.
- Brendan Harris has been really lousy this year. It's becoming apparent that his poor numbers in 2008 were not a fluke, but rather a portent of things to come. He's steadily sinking into Mike Lamb territory, and should be just as much a candidate for DFA as Jesse Crain.
- Ben Revere had a pretty sick weekend for AA New Britain. His season line now stands at .327/.400/.392 with 17/21 SB, good enough for the top 6 in the Eastern League in BA, OBP and SB. Sell high, Bill Smith!