Welcome home, fellas. Denard Span's 1st AB was a lot like his last AB in Oakland - a sharp liner up the middle. There, it was speared by the pitcher. Here, it just cleared the leaping SS for a base hit. Span was so excited he forgot how to lead off and got picked off. Matt Tolbert followed with one of his only productive AB of the series, a BB to set the table for Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer and, eventually Jason Kubel. I didn't think he'd get a fastball to hit in that AB. He sort of didn't - it was about neck-high - but he jumped all over it for a booming, 2-run 2B off the wall in deep right center.
The Twins once again ground Zach Greinke out of the game after 5 IP. Funny that Mauer and Justin Morneau, the Twins' 2 best hitters, should go 1 for 6 with 4 K against him, but everybody else went 8 for 17 with a BB and a HR (also courtesy of Kubel, who was ready for the off-speed pitch in his 3rd AB). Span got a huge 2-run single with the IF in after Nick Punto's S in the 4th. That ball just barely eluded a diving, drawn-in fielder. Amazing how much better Span's luck is at home.
Kevin Slowey! Yes! Right! Good! Just like that! I mean, he doesn't have to take a perfect game into the 5th inning every time out, but the efficiency, the precision, that's what I expect to see. This was the 3rd straight start in which he has still been pitching in the 7th inning.
Cuddyer misplayed what should have been the 2nd out of the 9th inning. That resulted in 2 unearned R, 10 extra pitches from Jose Mijares and an unnecessary appearance from Matt Guerrier. A poor note to end on.
Twins 6, Royals 2
3 of the Twins' 6 R in this game scored on outs, beginning with Danny Valencia's bases-loaded GIDP. That kid's gonna fit right in around here. That result is a bit of a testament to the organization's belief in contact: strikeout-prone hitters may leave a baserunner out there when all you had to do to score him was just put the ball in play. Only making one out would be better, as Punto and Tolbert were able to do later in the game. Getting a hit would be best, but that only happens about 1/3 of the time. The teams that can get something out of the other 2/3 have a chance to do just a little better than the competition.
Carl Pavano was really good again. He's given the Twins at least 6 IP in 10 of his 12 GS. I was a little disappointed that he didn't get a crack at the CG, especially after the Twins tacked on an extra, Save-killing run in the bottom of the 8th. He wasn't quite to 100 pitches, and he'll get an extra day of rest before his next start on Friday.
The trouble was the Alberto Callaspo AB in the 2nd inning. Pavano thought he had him struck out looking on the 1-2 pitch. I thought so, too, and Pitch F/X backed us up. Pitches like that are what I think is wrong with umpires. Ahead in the count, the guy hit the glove on a borderline pitch. Why not give it to him and ring the batter up? That would compel everybody else to come up swinging and speed up the game. And in this case, Callaspo doubled a couple of pitches later, leading Pavano to throw 4 more pitches than he should have to complete the inning. He could have had fewer total pitches and an extra out, getting him to the 9th with 91 pitches or so, a number he's surpassed in every one of his decent starts. Ed Hickox' stingy strike zone added a little time to the game, and influenced whether Pavano would be around for the 9th.
Twins 8, Royals 9
Luckily, I missed this fiasco while playing a lousy softball game of my own. Well, I left just after Baker gave up a HR to Mitch Maier. Really Baker - Mitch Maier? He was no darned good in this game, burying the Twins in a 5-1 hole and lasting just 5 IP.
Of course, with the Royals pitching, you're never really out of it, and the Twins came storming back in the 7th. They rattled off 6 straight H and did a lot of 1st to 3rd baserunning. They put up a 5-spot, negating the damage done by Baker.
Unfortunately, the defense wasn't able to hold the deficit where Baker left it. And it was all on the defense, as Jesse Crain retired the 1st 4 hitters he faced in the 6th. Punto hadn't made an error since last summer, but on this night, he managed to muff 2 in a row, either of which would have been the final out of a scoreless inning. Tolbert joined in the fun, and the 3 unearned runs would prove to be crucial.
Even that was nearly overcome thanks to a terrific 9th-inning rally from Span and the M&M boys. The difference was a 2-out, solo HR off Brian Duensing in the top of the 9th. Or, if you prefer, the run the Twins failed to get in the 3rd when Span got himself doubled off 2nd on a would-be SF from Mauer. Bad pitching, bad defense, bad baserunning - just a sloppy all-around game from the Twins. Maybe the worst of the year.
It seems routine now that the Twins will win the 1st 2 games of a series, especially at home. But they've only finished the sweep twice. Still, winning 2 of 3 at home is a great way to get yourself in position to win a title. So far, that's what the Twins are doing.