As the photo in this blog post indicates, there is a lot of head-scratching going on right now on the Twins’ current road trip. Last night, the Twins (again) could not muster any offense, yet the pitching kept the game within reach until the final inning.
The A’s got on the board first in the fourth inning by grounding into a double play to score a run, but the Twins came back in the sixth with a Justin Morneau sacrifice fly to knot the score at one.
As has been so common throughout this road trip, however, the A’s came right back with a run of their own in the bottom of the sixth. Fortunately, Nick Punto’s clutch single scored Delmon Young in the seventh for another (2-2) tie.
As the Twins were barely scraping enough runs across the plate to get by, the pitchers were doing an excellent job of styming the A’s. Starter Blackburn allowed two earned runs in five and two third innings, while both Reyes and Bonser pitching scoreless innings of their own.
In the bottom of the ninth, however, it all came crashing down. Craig Breslow came in from the pen to begin the inning, promptly gave up a single, then left after a successful sacrifice. Crain was then brought into the game and, after issuing a walk, threw a meatball to Kurt Suzuki that Ichiro’s namesake hit to deep left center to score the game-winning run.
-Basically, everything that COULD go wrong DID go wrong last night. The offense couldn’t generate any production, the starting pitching didn’t last long enough to give the bullpen a fair shake, and Crain again folded in a pressure situation. Only the defense was sparkling, with Alexi Casilla turning in a #1 Web Gem with his glove-flip to Nick Punto to start a double play.
-Also, I realize that I have really been ripping on Crain a lot throughout the relatively short life of this blog, so I would like to take a moment to explain exactly why I think he is the most overrated pitcher in the Twins’ bullpen. There really are two things that I dislike about Crain: First, he often struggles with his control, being unable to hit his spots. Second, as a result of that shoddy control, he often turns to just throwing the ball right over the plate in order to get strikes. Now, if he had any movement on his ball whatsoever (like, say, Joe Nathan), he could get away with this, but most of the time the ball comes in on a line and the batters cream it. Sure, he can throw in the mid-90s velocity, but with that straight ball the higher velocity only means that the ball will be hit harder when the batter connects (which is becoming more and more frequent these days).
-Rant on Crain aside, the offense lost the game last night. Too many 1-2-3 innings where the Oakland starting pitcher hardly had to work at all, unlike the A’s offense, which battled Blackie tooth and nail seemingly every at-bat.
Preview (75-59, 2nd, 1.5 GB CWS): Kevin Slowey (10-8, 3.74) vs. Dan Meyer (0-2, 5.95). Despite his southpaw status, Meyer should be prone to allowing some runs IF the Twins can capitalize on him. Slowey, like Perkins, has been giving us quality starts lately.