Wednesday's game was an epic, lasting thirteen innings and keeping me from studying for my macroeconomics exam for far too long. I felt the effects of that at 2:00 today when I was taking the test. But at least the Twins won on Joe Crede's walk-off grand slam to make it seem like it was all worth it.
Justin Morneau added his ninth home run of the season, and Jason Kubel had a huge game-tying pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning. After Luis Ayala and Matt Guerrier seemingly gave the game away again, the rest of the bullpen, save Craig Breslow, combined to hold the Tigers scoreless for the next 6+ innings.
That included Jesse Crain, who was the culprit in Tuesday's loss. Although he allowed the go-ahead run to score on a balk, he still pitched well. Fortunately, the offense bailed him out, with Kubel's single, Denard Span's sacrifice bunt, and Matt Tolbert's game-tying single before Crede eventually came up with the bases loaded and ended the game in grand fashion.
Thursday afternoon's game got off to a slow start. Perhaps because the Twins were up so late the night before, they came out sluggish against Justin Verlander, accumulating 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 12 times in the first six innings. After Scott Baker fell apart at the seams in the sixth inning, that seemed to be the equation for a loss.
Prior to that inning, Baker had again been spectacular on a day when the bullpen needed it most--through 5 innings, he had allowed only one hit and no walks. Certainly Gardenhire had to leave Baker in for that whole inning, as he had actually gotten two outs before any of the runs scored. With the bullpen taxed from the 13-inning affair the night before, it was a no-brainer.
The Twins then came up with their own 2-out rally in the seventh inning. Down 5-1 with two outs, the Twins had turned the tables and were up 6-5 by the time the inning had ended. Again it was Morneau, Kubel, and Crede who came through with the big hits, just as they hit the big home runs on Wednesday.
Not to be forgotten is an important outing from Craig Breslow, who has experienced his share of struggles to start the 2009 season. With all the other bullpen options used on Wednesday, it was probably not with great conviction that Gardy called him into the game, especially in the top of the eighth after the Twins had taken the lead. He responded, though, with 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
And with Joe Nathan's perfect ninth inning, the Twins completed a sweep of the Tigers and moved above .500 and just 1/2 game behind the division-leading Royals.