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Saturday, August 01, 2009

Really, Spotting The Twins Five Runs Was Only Polite: Angels 11, Twins 5 (11 Innings)

First of all, let me say that I'm extremely grateful that Ervin Santana, who gave up all five of the Twins' runs, had nothing to do with the win today other than providing four scoreless innings. Maybe, as Matt Welch has suggested, his 7.31 ERA is just a season-long case of the yips brought on by a shiny new contract; but however that works, I'm going back to hating on him until he can fix his cranio-rectal inversion. Joe Mauer's three-run jack in the third was maybe the most egregious, because it was such a meatball, and also because it came with nobody out.

Nick Blackburn was much better through his six and two-thirds, though the Angels made it close in the seventh on a Maicer Izturis scoring groundout and Bobby Abreu's solo rocket into the right-field baggy, making it 5-4 and only seven outs to go to turn it around or at least tie it. As it turned out, they needed only one, as Mike Napoli blew a solo homer over almost dead center, his last hit of an extraordinary 4-for-6 night, missing only a triple for the cycle.

Then something very like a miracle occurred, as both Jason Bulger and Kevin Jepsen pitched scoreless ball in the bottom of the eighth and ninth innings, retiring all six batters in order; in fact, Jepsen continued into the tenth after Joe Nathan did his usual efficient dispatching of the Angels in the top of the frame.

The astonishing eleventh inning, when it came down to it, rested on a bad outing by Bobby Keppel, his eventual loading of the bases, and the indecision of Brendan Harris. Now, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire brought in Harris in the opening of the ninth as a defensive replacement for starter Nick Punto, later moved to second. This becomes important because pinch-hitter Howie Kendrick tapped a ball more or less straight up the middle but slow. Harris fielded it easily, but then spun to look to see if there were a play available at home plate. Whether there was or wasn't, he got a spike caught in the Field Turf — and fell on his pants. Regrouping, with a double play at second now impossible, he tried for the out at first — and by that time, Howie was well past the first base bag. Everybody safe, and the Angels took a 6-5 lead.

That knocked out Keppel, and brought on Jesse Crain. The bad news for the Twins was about to become a downpour, as Crain faced four batters and failed to retire any of them, with all his inherited baserunners scoring, and leaving the bases loaded to boot. R.A. Dickey, the knuckleballer who's knocked around the league for a few years, finally came in and got three outs, but by that time the game was over and the home crowd had gone into funereal silence. Darren Oliver's clean performance in bottom of the inning ended, ironically enough, with Harris making the final out. I can't imagine Harris was too happy about that.

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Maybe, as Matt Welch has suggested, his 7.31 ERA is just a season-long case of the yips brought on by a shiny new contract

Don't think I've ever suggested that. It's more that he's sucking eggs while coming back from injury, but when he fully recovers I expect him to be a very good starter. If that happens by September, I'll be a happy camper indeed.

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