Yeah, I so much wanted that headline to be “Houston, YOU have a problem” but it was a disappointing weekend for the Twins, who lost two of three to the Astros. Houston played moderately well and certainly didn’t decimate the Twins, but Minnesota’s offense barely got going all weekend. With tough games on the road this week against the Cardinals and the Brewers, this last home stand was an opportunity to forge ahead, but Minnesota remains stubbornly just below the .500 mark for now.
Reading the triumphant 5-2 scoreline of Friday’s game, it might look to the casual observer that the Twins had a comfortable win, but this was far from the case. Kevin Slowey pitched well enough to get his tenth victory of the year, but in the top of the eighth inning, when Houston made it a one-run game, a Twins victory was far from assured. Fortunately, in the bottom of the eighth, Delmon Young managed to secure the 5-2 lead with a cheesey double that leftfielder Jason Michaels lost in the lights, but it was a far-from convincing victory.
Saturday’s game was just, well, kind of annoying. Minnesota managed all their runs via home runs with Brendan Harris, Delmon Young, Joe Mauer, and Jason Kubel all going deep. Trouble is, they did little else. Taking a 3-1 lead into the seventh, Scott Baker gave up a couple of runs and the score was tied at 3-3, so disappointing, but not a disaster. That is, until Ron Gardenhire, in his infinite wisdom, decided it was better to just go ahead and lose the game out right, introducing the comedy bullpen clowns once again. Sean Henn gave up a two-run homer, and Luis Ayala allowed another run to score, and despite Jason Kubel’s late-game heroics, and Jose Morales’s pinch-hitting double to make it interesting in the ninth, it was all too late by then, and Houston won the game 6-5.
Sunday: Two hits for the Twins the entire game, one of which was a solo home run shot by Michael Cuddyer. The Astros’ starter, Wandy Rodriguez, completely shut down the Minnesota offense, and Houston’s three-run first inning was more than enough to secure a series victory over a very disappointing and sorry looking Twins line up. Amusingly enough, Carlos Gomez did bunt the ball onto his head at one point, which pretty much summed up the entire weekend for Minnesota.
Houston is the fourth largest city in the USA. For some reason, that statistic always surprises me. It’s also home to the Lyndon B Johnson Space Center, and of course, the Houston Astros who are in Minneapolis today for a three game series against the Twins. The Astros played for 30+ years in a dome too. Maybe back in the sixties and seventies that was considered “cool”.
The last time the two teams met was 2006. The previous year, the Astros had their only World Series appearance when they lost to the Chicago White Sox in 2005. Back then, they had Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte, and Roger Clemens among their pitching staff, but now, only Roy Oswalt remains. He’s still a great pitcher of course, so tonight’s showdown between him and Kevin Slowey should be a good one. If Slowey gets the win tonight, he’ll join the elite club of ten-game winners so far this year.
Though the Astros have been struggling lately, they certainly have some talent in their ranks. Miguel Tejada currently has a .341 average and recently achieved his 2000th big league hit last week. They also have that perennial favorite Pudge Rodriguez, who achieved a major milestone this week by setting the record for most games played as a catcher. Minnesota will probably seem like favorites on paper, taking their record at the Metrodome into account, but hopefully they’ll not take anything for granted this weekend.
Elsewhere in the AL Central, interleague play continues. The Tigers find themselves entertaining the Milwaukee Brewers, the White Sox are at Cincinnati for three games against the Reds, Cleveland gets to play at Wrigley Field against the Cubs this weekend, and Kansas City remain at home to face the mighty St. Louis Cardinals.
Minnesota continued to show why they’re the most schizophrenic team in baseball, switching from glittering performances to ineptitude and back again over three games at the Metrodome.
Thursday’s game was a swift two-hour affair (some kind of MLB Network-only game I think, with two unknown blokes commentating) and Nick Blackburn pitched a complete game, just one out shy of a shut-out, as the Twins emerged 5-1 winners and wrapped up a series victory over the Pirates. Both Brian Buscher (seriously!) and Michael Cuddyer went deep, but this game was all about an ever-impressive Blackburn inducing the Pittsburgh line-up into hitting ground-ball outs pretty much every inning.
However, the Twins performance on Wednesday night, when they lost 8-2 to the Pirates, was probably one of the worst I’ve seen all season. Francisco Liriano didn’t pitch too badly, but gave up a couple of two-run homers. However, with Pittsburgh leading 4-2, the bullpen clowns of Sean Henn and Luis Ayala gave up four more unnecessary runs in the eighth and ninth. Minnesota had numerous opportunities to score, but squandered them once again. Michael Cuddyer tripled in the sixth with one out, but Delmon Young hit into a double play, mainly because Cuddyer had made the foolish decision to break for home. In the seventh, with the bases loaded and only one out, Jason Kubel struck out and Joe Crede grounded out weakly. Delmon also hit into another double play later, and went 0-for-4. It was almost embarrassing watching him at the plate last night, but he was hardly alone, as the Twins failed to produce yet again. Sure, Minnesota has lost games this season when they’ve played poorly, but there was something about this slow, painful game last night that made me thankful that it finally ended.
For some reason, this team has a great deal of trouble staying at (or over) .500, and watching games like these, you can kind of see why. Still, a series victory was earned, and now the Twins face the Houston Astros in three games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Metrodome.