As both the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays showed earlier this season, sometimes being 10 runs in front is not enough to win a game. On Monday night, the Oakland Athletics rallied from being 12-2 down at one point in the game to beat the Twins 14-13 in the end.
Anyone who saw the game though, even when Minnesota was 10 runs up, knew that a victory for the Twins was not a foregone conclusion by any means. After Jason Kubel made it 3-0 in the first with his 16th home run of the year, the A’s immediately bounced back to make it 3-2. Things then looked to be going the Twins’ way after Justin Morneau cranked a grand-slam, and followed that up with a three-run shot the next inning, but still the Athletics kept stringing together hit after hit to make sure they were never really out of it.
Pitcher Nick Blackburn never looked in command of his pitches, and the Twins’ defense was fairly lackluster all night, but the fatal blow was struck in a seven-run seventh inning by the A’s. With the Twins’ comedy bullpen trio of Brian Duensing, Bobby Keppel (whose start had been suspiciously good prior to this game and was due to implode any moment), and Jose Mijares on display, Matt Holliday’s grand slam tied things up and was topped-off by Jack Cust’s solo home run shot to make the game 14-13 in Oakland’s favor.
Sure, the Twins had let a big lead slip, and to be honest, didn’t really deserve to win after giving it all up so stupidly, but in end, it was a controversial umpiring decision that settled the affair. In the top of the ninth, Michael Cuddyer was called out sliding into home plate on a passed ball, and it was very, very clear from the replay that he was safe by a mile. That poor decision pretty much cost the Twins the game, and it was a cheesy way for the A’s to finally get the victory. Of course, it’s easy to blame an umpire, but when you’ve given up 14 runs in a game, you pretty much deserve everything you get.
Still, Oakland needs what little joy it can muster in what’s been a poor season for them so far, and in the end it was a shame there were only around 10,000 folks at the Coliseum to watch their epic comeback as this once historic franchise continues to struggle. In the meantime, it was yet another terrible meltdown for the Twins, and a bullpen performance which was almost hilarious and tragic in its ineptitude.
I’ll be there tonight (Tuesday), and frankly, I’ll settle for a 9-0 blowout A’s win rather than what transpired on Monday night.
A 2-2 series split with the Oakland A’s was hardly the most exciting of results for the Twins, but to be honest, the way this team has been playing on the road so far, not unsurprising. Amazingly, Minnesota has only won one paltry road-trip series all season (against Cleveland at the end of April), so if a tied series against the A’s is an indication of even a slight return to form, that’s something. I’m hoping the Twins can start to at least perform averagely in games away from the Metrodome over the next few months, that will certainly be a step up from sucking horribly.
The upcoming three-game series at Wrigley Field against the Cubs should be an interesting one. Rather like the Twins, the Chicago Cubs have been having a fairly uninspiring season so far, but for many of the Twins players it will probably be thoroughly exciting to be playing at the historic ballpark. We know Minnesota has a habit of performing well in interleague play, but this is the Twins on the road, so anything could happen. With three day games to look forward to this weekend and the prospect of watching a floundering Delmon Young lose the ball in the ivy, it should make for a great series.
What is it about these Twins lads? Nothing is ever straightforward with them, but I suppose that makes watching them all the more exciting, and sometimes, an anxiety-ridden experience. With a 10-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth against the A’s last night, Scott Baker was three outs away from a complete game shut out. But of course, it was never going to be that easy. So, instead of talking about a successful offensive performance by the Twins last night, we’re instead discussing how they almost blew it again.
Baker loaded the bases with a walk and a couple of singles, so in came Jesse Crain. Of course, Jesse did what Jesse does best: choke in vital situations. Adam Kennedy got a single off him which scored two, Jack Cust walked, and Chris Denofria got an infield single which Alexi Casilla fumbled (so not necessarily Crain’s fault this time) to score another. Turns out Casilla had already made a couple of mistakes earlier, so the quicker he gets sent back down to Rochester, the better. When Nick Punto returns on Friday (from what I’m reading on other blogs), Gardy will probably keep Brendan Harris at short-stop and put Punto at second, so it’ll likely be bye-bye Casilla.
With the score at 10-3, in came Jose Mijares, fresh from his cross-dressing exploits. He got Jason Giambi swinging for a vital first out, but then walked Kurt Suzuki to score one AND Daric Barton to score yet another, so now the game was at 10-5.
So would you believe it, this has now become a save situation, what with the bases loaded and the tying run in the on-deck circle. Thankfully, Joe Nathan emerged from the bullpen and was inch perfect, showing all those young’uns exactly how it’s done. He made short work of things and struck out Jack Hannahan and Rajai Davis for his 12th save of the season.
The win for Minnesota stopped their three-game losing skid, and put an end to Oakland’s impressive seven-game winning streak. The A’s young rookie pitching roster looks very promising, and I’m sure they’ll perform well this year, but whether they’ll be able to last out the long season is a different matter. And, as usual, even faced with virtually impossible odds in the ninth, their batters still hustled and played hard until the end.
Right now, the series is tied at one apiece with two more to go tonight and tomorrow. Obviously, us Twins fans will be hoping to finally get a good string of road victories under our belts, but Oakland won’t make that an easy task.
Before I go on vacation, some interesting news just emerged. Left handed bullpen pitcher Craig Breslow was just claimed off waivers by the Oakland A’s. To be honest, they’re welcome to him. He hadn’t done much in a Twins uniform, going 1-2 with a 6.28 ERA in 17 games, but I thought he’d be the more likely to ‘come around’ than useless righty Louis Ayala, who pretty much makes me cower under the blanket in fear every time he steps up on the mound to pitch. I’m wondering how much longer Ayala is going to last.
In Breslow’s place, the Twins have called up right hander Anthony Swarzak who’ll probably be the starting pitcher for Saturday’s interleague match-up against the Brewers. Glen Perkins will be back soon enough though, but I wonder if he’ll re-join the starting line-up or be expected to take up a relief spot for a while?
Minnesota has now lost their last five in a row, so it’ll be up to Francisco Liriano to step-up against Chicago and stop the losing streak. But to be honest, I’m taking a few days off from rigorously following the Twins. We definitely need some time apart.
Due to yesterday’s game being postponed, the Twins face their first double header today at Fenway versus the Red Sox. I guess they better get used to these. Next season, what with playing ball at the new open-air Target Field in Minneapolis, there’s likely to be many more of them if the weather remains inclement early in the season.
I’m hoping the Twins will win both games, purely for the selfish reason that it is my birthday. This day last year, Minnesota were visiting Oakland, and won 5-4 on a rather cold and drizzly night in front of a mere 10,000 people. Craig Monroe (remember him?) hit a home run, but by the end of that game, only die-hard Twins fans had stuck around to bear the elements.
Heather bought a “Happy Birthday Marty” message on the big screen at the Coliseum, which was a very sweet thing to do, but they wouldn’t let her put “Go Twins!” at the end of the message, the cheeky scamps.