Back In The Race

slap.jpgWhen the dust finally settles on the “Great AL Central Race of ’08”, yesterday’s game (9-9-08) could very likely be viewed as the turning point of the stretch run for the Minnesota Twins.  Coming into the contest, the Twins knew that the White Sox had already lost the first game of their doubleheader with Toronto, and the Blue Jays also pulled out to an early lead in the second tilt.  Thus, with a win, the Twins knew they could jump right back into the thick of the division race once again.

The Twins got their win, although things did look a little shaky in the early innings.  Joe Mauer drove in Denard Span (who had doubled) in the first inning, but Miguel Olivo of the Royals homered to deep left-centerfield in the top of the second, tying the score.  Carlos Gomez and Span drove in two more runs in the bottom of the second to make the score 3-1, but the Royals again rallied back with one run in the top of the third on a Jose Guillen double.

At this point, however, is where the Twins showed us a glimpse of why they have been in the pennant race up until this point.  So many times during the past month, the Twins would let these sorts of games get away from them by not putting away the opponent early.  Last night, however, the Twins found their shovel and kept piling on some runs.  In the bottom of the third, a Brian Buscher double scored Delmon Young for a 4-2 lead.  Then, in the fourth, after a Mauer sac fly, Justin Morneau broke the game open (7-2) with a homer to right field that just cleared the baggie.

No more runs were scored the entire contest, and Twins fans have Nick Blackburn to thank for that.  After struggling in the early innings, Blackie settled down and ended up going seven strong innings, allowing just two earned runs on five hits to finally pick up that elusive tenth victory.  Dennys Reyes and Jesse Crain finished off the contest without incident (not to be overlooked in the Twins’ recent rash of bullpen failures).

Notes:

-I don’t know about you, but to me Brian Buscher needs to be in the lineup EVERY DAY down the stretch here in late September.  His defense may be just average (probably at best), but his bat is often crucial in keeping rallies going.  I think Gardy should have Buscher start nearly ever game at 3B, and have Punto/Harris rotate at shortstop depending on what the opposing pitching matchup looks like.  Then, when Buscher needs a day off, put him at DH.  His bat is too powerful not to have in the lineup at this point.

-I also saw last night that Paul Konerko, the powerful first baseman for the rival White Sox, will likely miss the rest of the season with an MCL injury.  First Carlos Quentin, now Konerko.  The White Sox have relied on their home run power for most of the season, so this could be a big blow to them as they begin a road trip (at the same time as the Twins) starting later this week.

Preview (79-65, 2nd, 1.0 GB CWS): Kevin Slowey (11-9, 3.75) vs. Kyle Davies (6-6, 4.59).  The Twins’ bats pummeled Davies the last time we faced him, so tonight should be a pitching matchup in our favor.

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