Late-Inning Heroics

mauer.jpgBy all accounts, Friday night’s Twins game against the Brewers should have been the end of an incredible winning streak.  Despite home runs from Alexi Casilla and Jason Kubel in the early innings, Nick Blackburn surrendered four Brewer bombs in five innings to put the home team in a 6-3 hole.  With Milwaukee leading by three runs, their bats on fire, and the hit-or-miss Brian Bass coming into the game, this looked to be the conclusion of the big streak.  Perhaps I still don’t have enough faith in the Twins yet…

As Bass and then Matt Guerrier held the Brewers scoreless through three innings, the Twins began battling back.  Joe Mauer started the rally in the fifth inning with a double, eventually scoring on Kubel’s sacrifice fly.  Again, though, with two outs and two on with Delmon Young up, the chances were that the Brewers would get out of the inning.  That was, however, until Young bounced an eight-hopper up the middle to score both runners and move the Twins within one run at 6-5.

In the seventh inning, Michael Cuddyer was gunned down at home plate for the second out, leaving a few runners on for Brian Buscher.  Milwaukee brought in their side-winding lefty to face Buscher, and once again the match-up seemed to favor the Brew Crew.  Of course, Buscher then doinked a hit into the opposite field to tie the game (6-6).  Buscher is now 8-15 with men in scoring position and making Mike Lamb the forgotten man on this team.

Then, in the eighth, another Brewer reliever quickly got the first two outs of the inning.  However, Mauer would not go down easily, fouling pitch after pitch down the left field line.  Jo-Mo finally got his pitch, and cranked it over the left field fence for the 7-6 lead.  The large walk-up crowd at the Dome nearly blew the roof off the place, and I think Twins TV broadcaster nearly lost his voice calling it!

But why should the drama end there?  In the ninth, Joe Nathan allowed two singles and had to face Prince Fielder with the game on the line.  Despite more “horse blows” and facial tics than I think I’ve ever seen from Nathan, he retired Prince and pumped his fist in celebration.  The winning streak is still intact.

Essentially, after a week and a half of tremendous starting pitching, on this night the offense had to pick up the slack, and did in a big way.  Despite the fact that Ron Gardenhire is loathe to talk about this, this team is remarkably following the 2006 “magical” pattern.  Let’s see: Early season struggles–check; mid-season winning streak–check; difficulty gaining games on the division leader–check.  Of course, and this is why Gardy is so cautious, those types of runs happen only once in a great while.  Can the current Twins keep up the pace?  After games like last night, I’ve stopped doubting them.

Preview (44-36, 2nd, 0.5 GB CWS): Livan Hernandez (8-4, 5.23) vs. Manny Parra (7-2, 4.29). In the midst of this winning streak, do the match-ups really matter?!

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