The crappy hitting from the road trip lingered into the first 2 games of this series. Luckily, Brian Duensing and Francisco Liriano each pitched into the 7th inning, and neither allowed any ER. The Twins still ended up using at least 4 relievers in each game, including Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier and Matt Capps in both.
The offense got plenty of help from the Detroit bullpen on Tuesday, with 2 BB and 2 HBP contributing to the winning rally. One of the HBP knocked Jason Kubel out for the next 4 games, however. That certainly made things tougher in Wednesday's contest. Thanks to other nagging injuries, the Twins were also without Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome. Danny Valencia delivered a couple more big hits in the middle of the two scoring rallies, and the Twins managed to win a game in which they only had 8 baserunners in 10 innings.
The Thursday night fiasco was as much a result of catastrophic mismanagement of the roster as anything that happened on the field. On Wednesday, the Twins had the opportunity to call up as many warm bodies from AAA as they had on the 40-man roster. They cavalierly elected to bring up only 2 position players, Trevor Plouffe and Jose Morales. No pitchers, even though Brian Fuentes was ailing and 3 of their righties should have been considered unavailable for Thursday. The bullpen effectively consisted of Jon Rauch, Randy Flores and Jeff Manship.
Manship was called into service almost immediately, as Scott Baker was removed with elbow soreness after 2 laborious and ineffective IP. Manship held the Tigers to 1 R on 4 H over 4 IP, and Rauch pitched a scoreless 7th. Meanwhile, the offense finally broke out, scoring 7 R on 12 H, with the help of a BB and a couple of Tiger errors. With the score 7-3 heading to the 8th, the Twins looked as though they would match the White Sox' 3-game sweep of the Indians. Once Flores allowed a 1-out HR, fill-in manager Scott Ullger (Gardy had been tossed during the previous inning for correctly arguing a call) decided to go to the 'pen for... the exhausted Guerrier. Whoops. Guerrier gave up 3 H and left with the score tied, though the last 2 R of the frame came on yet another too-low throw from JJ Hardy which Michael Cuddyer couldn't dig out.
The Twins scratched another run in the bottom half, but let the Tigers tie it again when Crain allowed his first HR in ages. He was available, but Capps wasn't? Anyway, Crain labored through 2 IP. Then Duensing came in for 2 IP, forcing the Twins to push back his Sunday start. Then Nick Blackburn came in, forcing the Twins to scratch him from Friday's start. This was a game to give the White Sox hope, as the Twins fumbled a 4-R lead late, then decimated their rotation in a drawn out losing effort.
Still, it was a series win, and it lowered the magic number to 26.
The Twins were forced to add Matt Fox to the 40-man roster to start Friday's game. He had a terrific MLB debut: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB. That kept the Twins in the game long enough to string a few hits together and take a 4-3 lead after 7 innings. Capps came in for a 5-out save after Flores failed to retire the lefty he was brought in to face.
After 6 straight 1-run games, it was nice to finally win one comfortably. The Twins annihilated Rangers starter Colby Lewis (on my fantasy team - making the result ever so slightly bittersweet) for 9 ER in 3.2 IP. Thome put an exclamation point on the day with 2 HR, moving him into sole possession of 9th on the all-time HR list. Carl Pavano delivered another 8-inning QS. Ian Kinsler soured the afternoon by homering off Rob Delaney in his MLB debut.
The Twins led most of the way in the finale. Blackburn delivered another 7-inning QS. The Twins broke the game open by taking advantage of a bunch of BB in the 6th. Rauch tried to finish up the last 2 innings, but gave up an RBI 2B with 2 out in the 9th. In came Matt Capps, who proceeded to allow all four batters he faced to reach. The final IF hit resulted in the last out when the 3B ump ruled that baserunner Michael Young had made contact with the third base coach. Whatever. I'll take it. That was frighteningly close to being a repeat of Thursday night. Instead, it was another Twins' sweep, making them 6-0 vs. the Rangers at home.
The White Sox swept the Red Sox in Fenway, once again getting away with a late rally. No help there. But the 3 Twins wins lowered the magic number to 23.
Almost a repeat of the Texas series. The Twins got just enough offense to win on Monday night. Flores again allowed the only lefty he faced to reach. But a more rested Guerrier came on to bail him out.
The middle game was a comfy blowout, capped by another loud blast from Thome, a moonshot into the stars of the American Flag in Target Plaza estimated at 480 feet. Another Rochester guy, Pat Neshek this time, was given a rude welcome to the big leagues while mopping up in the 9th.
The Twins beat Zach Greinke again in the finale, waiting until the middle innings to string some hits together. Duensing was stellar for 8 IP. Capps almost let the game get away in the 9th.
This time, the White Sox faltered, finishing their 10-game road trip with 3 straight losses in Detroit. That, combined with another Twins sweep, elevated the Twins' lead in the division to a season-high 6 games, and dropped the magic number to 17 with 22 games to play.
An 8-1 home stand. And had the Twins gotten a good throw from Hardy in that critical 8th inning against the Tigers, it could have been 9-0. Not a lot of hitting, but it was timely. Very strong pitching. And some nice breaks, too. Everything is going the Twins' way as they head into the final 3 1/2 weeks of the season.