Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Still On Top

Twins 5, Tigers 7

This series got off to a brutal start as Francisco Liriano hit the leadoff man with an 0-1 pitch, then failed to field a bunt to the right of the mound. The next 4 batters zinged line drives (Miguel Cabrera deserves credit for driving a ball below the knees for a 2-R 2B, Liriano deserves scorn for hanging a pitch to Brennan Boesch for another 2-R 2B). The malaise of the interleague road trip lasted 6 batters into the home stand. After that, Liriano was himself again, allowing just 1 ER on 2 H, 2 BB and 6 K, until he was undone in the 7th by a leadoff bunt hit and a failure to get an out on the ensuing sacrifice.

Other than the runs allowed, Jeremy Bonderman's line didn't even look as good as Liriano's. But he managed to scatter his H a little better, and he was bailed out by 3 GIDP - 2 from Jason Kubel. Still, there was still plenty of offense from the Twins' lineup. Jim Thome at DH looks like a really good idea, at least against RHP. In this game, he had a BB, HR and his first 3B since 2004.

The loss put the Tigers in 1st place by 0.5 games, the first time the Twins trailed in the division since April.

Twins 11, Tigers 4

This was a do or die game for Nick Blackburn's spot in the rotation. He didn't pitch brilliantly, but it was enough to win on this night. 7 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K. He allowed 3 R in the 3rd, but settled in pretty well after that. He only gave up 2 XBH, and got 12 ground ball outs. That's more like it.

The offense creamed Armando Galarraga and Fu Te Ni. Everybody reached base at least once, thanks to 13 H and 7 BB. 8 of the H went for extra bases, led by Denard Span's 3 3Bs. Thome added another HR.

Twins 5, Tigers 1

Kevin Slowey has been pretty shaky lately, so it was a pleasure to see him moving efficiently through Detroit's lineup. He needed just 81 pitches to complete 6 IP, with 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB and 4 K, before he was knocked out of the game by a Magglio Ordonez liner off his ankle. Matt Guerrier looked a little shaky in the 8th, as he did in his appearance on Monday, but he got through it unscathed. Jon Rauch, who hasn't had a save since the Rockies series, had to face 2 extra batters in the 9th after Matt Tolbert, inserted for defensive purposes, committed the 1st E by a Twins 3B this season.

Delmon Young got to hit 3rd with Joe Mauer getting the day off. He delivered an RBI single in 4 trips. Morneau was the big hitting hero with a 2B, HR and 2 RBI. Thome struck out 3 times against LHP. Michael Cuddyer had a lot of liners find leather in this series, but capped it by going 2 for 3 with a BB. The key rally in the 5th inning began with an IF H followed by the Tigers' failing to get an out on a sacrifice bunt. There's some symmetry in that.

The Twins did what they had to do in this series, winning 2 of 3 games and turning back the Tigers' advances towards 1st place. And rather emphatically, I might add. After the 1st inning on Monday, the Twins outscored the Tigers 20-8 the rest of the way. We saw that the Tigers are capable of some timely hitting, led by MVP candidate Cabrera and their improbably successful rookies. But we saw their weaknesses, too: poor starting pitching from the back of the rotation, easy outs from the bottom of the lineup, shaky defense all over the field. They are not a team that should be overlooked, but neither are the Tigers a team the Twins should fear.

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