For the 10th time in 13 GS, Carl Pavano gave the Twins 7 IP. He always seems to give up a couple of R in those 7 IP, and this night was no exception. 3 ER on 5 H with 1 BB and 5 K. He allowed 2 solo HR, but those won't beat you, right Bert? What a tremendous asset he's been to the rotation.
It's amazing how a team can scuffle through a series and then explode as soon as the next opponent shows up. With a sinker-ball pitcher on the mound, all it takes is some fortuitous placement, and the Twins got plenty of that in the 4th inning. Everyone in the order but Jason Kubel managed to reach base by slipping grounders just past diving IF. Michael Cuddyer's 2B eluded the Melvin Mora when it hit the 3B bag. Nick Punto delivered a big 2-run single with the bases loaded. Joe Mauer, the 10th man to come to the plate, grounded into a DP to end the rally, the 3rd GIDP of the night from the Twins.
Matt Tolbert went yard! It was his 3rd career HR, and the 1st that didn't come on a windy day in Chicago. Somebody wants to stay on the roster beyond this series...
Twins 2, Rockies 1
The way this game started out, I didn't think it was going to be close. The Twins loaded the bases with nobody out in the 2nd, then got back-to-back H from Danny Valencia and Punto. But Delmon Young was nailed at the plate trying to score on Punto's single, and the rally fizzled after just 2 R had come in.
And that was it. The Twins continued to put runners on against Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin, but they bailed him out with GIDP to end the 3rd, 4th and 5th innings. The worst was the 5th, when Punto and Denard Span led off with singles. Tolbert sacrificed them into scoring position, and the Rox elected to intentionally walk Mauer to load the bases for Morneau. Who promptly beat the 1st pitch he saw into the ground for the Twin-killing. Ugh.
Luckily, Scott Baker was out of his mind. He shut the Rox out for 7 IP, allowing just 2 H and 1 BB with a career-high 12 K. Matt Guerrier quickly got into trouble in the 8th, but Jose Mijares came in to limit the damage to just 1 R. Jon Rauch had a perfect 9th for his 17th save in 19 chances.
Twins 1, Rockies 5
I was really looking forward to this matchup between Francisco Liriano and Ubaldo Jimenez. Looking at their stats before the game, I was surprised to see that Liriano had the edge between the two in K/9, BB/9 and HR/9. Jimenez was succeeding largely because of a BABIP that was about .050 below the MLB average, while Liriano's was high by about the same margin. Certainly a closer matchup than a glance at ERAs and Won/Lost records would suggest.
As I noted in regards to the Liriano/Tim Hudson tilt last week, the slightest imprecision can be fatal in matchups of elite pitchers. Liriano was anything but precise in the 1st inning, allowing 4 H, 1 BB and 2 HBP. He was rescued by a good cutoff play to nail one of the baserunners, then managed to leave the bases loaded after a brutal bat-around inning from the Rox. After that, he was an ace again, allowing just 1 H and 2 BB while facing 2 over the minimum for the next 6 IP, earning his 11th QS in 13 GS.
Unfortunately, Jimenez' good luck on BABIP persisted, making the game already out of reach. The Twins managed to put somebody on base in virtually every inning, but that hitter was immediately erased by 4 more DP and a pickoff. Both times Span was nailed on the bases it was a close play, but the timely, accurate throws compelled the umpire to give the benefit of the doubt to the defense. Anyway, that made the workload considerably easier for Jimenez, whose 8 IP, 8 H, 2BB, 4 K line wasn't a lot better than Liriano's 7 IP, 5 H, 3 BB, 6 K. Jimenez scattered his H, and Liriano didn't.
On the plus side, Matt Tolbert showed up once again, collecting a chalkline 2B among 2 H in the game. For the series he went 4 for 9 with a 2B, HR and 2 BB, likely solidifying his place on the roster after Orlando Hudson is reactivated. Also chipping in with a rare productive game was Drew Butera, who walked and drove in the lone run for the Twins with a single in the 8th.
- It's got to be Trevor Plouffe who heads back to Rochester when Hudson is recalled. While Tolbert has been hitting up a storm and Valencia has been solid, Plouffe is 0 for 10 since his recall.
- I'm ready to face some fly-ball pitchers.
- Angel Morales was promoted to Fort Myers. I can't imagine Aaron Hicks will be too far behind. Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee have both been reinstated at AA after brief demotions.