Wednesday, September 30, 2009

2 games, 2-run difference

If nothing else, the first day of games between the Twins and Tigers lived up to the hype it was given and the excitement I felt for it. Both games were decided by one run, and thus obviously went down to the wire.

The first went the Twins' way, as Nick Blackburn recovered after a shaky beginning to cruise through seven innings with just one run allowed. Rick Porcello was performing similarly for the Tigers, though he pitched just 6 1/3 innings. A sac fly by Denard Span had tied the game at one earlier and set the stage for a dreadfully disappointing ninth inning. After Alexi Casilla doubled to start it off, Matt Tolbert bunted him over to third base--the third such sacrifice in the game for the Twins. That one I like. The next one, however, I didn't like, and Nick Punto popped it straight up for an inning-ending double play on the suicide squeeze attempt.

But Jon Rauch pitched a scoreless bottom half despite a leadoff walk, giving the Twins their chance in extras. They took advantage immediately, scoring two runs in the tenth on Orlando Cabrera's single and Delmon Young's sacrifice fly. They would need both as Curtis Granderson homered off Joe Nathan before he got the next three outs in succession.

The second game looked bad from the start. Brian Duensing finally pitched like one might assume Brian Duensing would pitch, and Justin Verlander continued to pitch like one would think Justin Verlander would pitch, giving Detroit a lead. But then the Twins struck as Verlander's pitch count climbed toward 100, scoring twice in the sixth, and again as it soared past 125, scoring twice in the eighth. That made it 5-4 Tigers with just one more chance remaining for the Twins.

And yet again Curtis Granderson led off the Tigers' half-inning with a solo home run, this time off Matt Guerrier. That really put the Twins in trouble with just 3 outs left. And it proved to be the difference as the Twins took advantage of an error by Placido Polanco (despite what the official scorer may think) and a misplayed ball by Granderson to score one run and get the tying run at second base. Denard Span, though, flew out to end the ball game with the score 6-5 Detroit.

Granted, that was the one game of the series the Twins could "afford to lose", with Verlander toeing the rubber, but to come up just short is really heartbreaking. There's no time to sulk, though, as they need to come back and win the next two games on Wednesday and Thursday to stay in the play-off hunt.

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