In my June Review, I said of Francisco Liriano, "If he can just cut down on the HBP and IF H, we're in business." Well, in this game, he hit 2 batters - and they both scored. He allowed a bunt single on what was really just an attempted sacrifice - and that guy scored. Plus, he walked the leadoff guy in the 1st and 2nd inning - and they both scored. On top of all the bases he gave away, he allowed 5 other H (2 of which were merely well-placed grounders) to the first 15 batters, so there would have been a little damage in the early innings regardless. But the free passes turned what could have been nothing more than some early jams into an early exit for Liriano, and an insurmountable 7-0 deficit after just 2 innings.
The offense did a pretty good job against Justin Verlander - it's rare to knock him out before he's finished 6 IP. They collected 8 H and 2 BB. Unfortunately, all of the H were singles, and they were generally spaced out just enough to prevent any big damage. Except for the 6th inning, which began with 5 straight batters reaching, chasing Verlander from the game. The Twins got just 1 R out of that rally, though, because Orlando Hudson got himself picked off (the 2nd PO of the game) after his leadoff single. Trailing 7-1, there's no way he was going to steal 2nd, so it's pretty unforgivable to let that happen. He should have scored ahead of Joe Mauer on Jason Kubel's RBI single. Then, Delmon Young's bases loaded GIDP would have come with 0 outs, plating another run, and the Twins could have had a 3-spot in the inning.
The Twins wouldn't have beaten anybody playing the way they did on Friday. Especially not a top pitcher on a 1st-place team. Blech.
Twins 4, Tigers 7
I couldn't bear to watch this one. Nick Blackburn has been such a disaster on the road this season, you just knew this wasn't going to be a fun game for Twins fans. He sort of, almost, a little bit kept the team in it for awhile, allowing just 5 H through the first 4 IP. They were all XBH, though, including 3 HR, resulting in 4 ER.
Still, Jeremy Bonderman isn't anything to be afraid of on the mound, and the Twins touched him for a couple of R in the 3rd on a 2-run single from Hudson. Michael Cuddyer blasted his 2nd HR of the trip in the 4th, and the Twins were down just a run heading into the bottom of the 5th. 2B, BB, 3-run HR for Johnny Damon, and the game was once again out of reach. Blackburn got 9 groundball outs, so his sinker was obviously working, at times. But every H he allowed was either a 2B or an HR. He's an absolute mess right now, and he's giving the team no chance to win.
Twins 6, Tigers 3
Where would this team be without Carl Pavano? Once again, with the pitching staff on the ropes, he took the ball and kept the Twins in the game for at least 7 innings. He was especially good in the early goings on Sunday, retiring the first 13 batters and facing the minimum through 5 innings.
That gave the offense plenty of time to build a lead. Even with Joe Mauer taking a day off, the top of the order did a nice job setting the table. Young moved up to the #3 spot, and he, Denard Span and Hudson each reached base twice and combined to score 4 R. Big day for Cuddyer: 2-3, 2B, 2 BB, 2 RBI. He seems to be heating up. And Danny Valencia keeps having pretty good AB; he went 1-4 with an RBI 2B and hits the break at .310/.375/.345.
Mad props to the bullpen this weekend for cleaning up considerable messes on Friday and Saturday and locking down the win on Sunday. Just about everybody was called upon - even Kevin Slowey - and they combined for 11.2 shutout innings.
The All-Star Break could not be coming at a better time for the Twins. They are reeling, losers of 5 of the last 6 series and 13 of 19 games. Meanwhile, the Tigers - and especially the White Sox, are soaring. The Tigers are 18-9 over the last month. The Sox are 25-5. The break will enable the Twins to make a clean separation between their horrid play of the last 3 weeks, and the rather good play they're going to provide for the remainder of the season. And it will give the competition a chance to cool off and remember that they're not actually good enough to win 4-5 out of every 6 games.
- I was hoping the Twins would be able to get through this series without using Matt Guerrier. He made 2 appearances, each lasting just 1 batter, for a total of 6 pitches. I suppose that wasn't too taxing for him.
- Justin Morneau missed the series with lingering symptoms from the concussion he suffered last Wednesday, and will sit out the All Star Game. Filling in at 1B, Cuddyer has gone 6 for 15 with 2 2B, 2 HR, 2 BB and 4 RBI (.400/.471/.933). Wouldn't it be something if both those guys could be in the lineup, producing, at the same time?