Last night, with the score tied at 1-1 in the ninth inning, Brendan Harris hit a home run off Trevor Hoffman (the all-time saves leader) to give the Twins the lead. Tonight, with the score tied at 3-3 in the fourth inning and the ninth-winningest pitcher of all-time (Greg Maddux, 351 wins) on the mound, Harris hit a two-run bomb to break a 3-3 deadlock, leading to an eventual 9-3 victory.
After struggling mightily to start the season, and nearly being benched altogether due to multiple defensive miscues, Harris has been playing quite well as of late. Remember, the Twins originally picked up Harris for his offensive skills (ironically enough, to “replace” Alexi Casilla at second place…how plans quickly change!), and he is finally showing that potential. He has also looked much more comfortable at shortstop than at second base (where he played most of the time earlier in the season).
Some other thoughts after watching tonight’s game:
-Gomez and Casilla continue to be igniters at the top of the order (crucial to Twins victories). Tonight, Go-Go was 3-4 (2 RBI, 1 R), while Casilla was 1-3 (1 BB, 1 RBI, 1 R). Those two combined are filling the spot that Shannon Stewart and Luis Castillo once claimed.
-I’m also really starting to warm to the role that Craig Monroe is playing on this ballclub. He starts about 1-2 games a week, but is always available off the bench to pinch-hit in situations where a few runs need to be scored. He seems to be the kind of player the Twins thought they were getting with Rondell White the last few years…but Rondell failed in that role. Monroe actually produces from time to time! He reminds me a lot of Don Baylor on the 1987 Twins team…didn’t start a whole lot, but provided legitimate punch off the bench (an area in which the Twins are usually vastly overmatched against top-tier teams).
-Finally, isn’t it fun to just watch Greg Maddux pitch?! The Twins got to him tonight, but even in his advanced years he can still hit his spots and get guys out. I remember watching him pitch in many playoff series in the mid to late 1990s with the Atlanta Braves, and almost always winning. Actually, I saw the only previous time that Maddux pitched against the Twins. It was in 2004 when the Braves came to the Dome. The game went 15 innings and was won when Cristian Guzman doubled home Tom Prince.
Preview (42-36, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (3-2, 3.47) vs. Josh Banks (2-1, 1.62). Banks has been filling in aptly for the injured Padre starter Chris Young, but Baker just out-dueled Randy Johnson in his last start. If Baker has a decent start, the Twins should roll to their third consecutive sweep and ninth consecutive win.