The Little Everett Who Could
Coming off a terrible sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Indians, the Twins needed to play well in this series in order to stay within striking distance of the division-leading White Sox. Although not all aspects of the Twins’ game clicked tonight, they did manage to escape with one of the craziest wins of the season. Both the Twins and Rays A1 and A2 in home runs given up, and that proved to be a key theme in this game:
Right away in the top of the first inning, Jason Kubel clubbed a three-run dinger to give the Twins the lead and a bit of excitement. However, Perkins didn’t even make it out of his half of the first, surrendering two two-run home runs (to Longoria and Navarro) as well as a Gabe Gross run scoring double as the Rays took a 5-3 lead.
Joe Mauer singled in Alexi Casilla (more on him later) to move the Twins to within one, but both Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria (#2 on the night for him) homered in the fourth to pull out in front 7-4.
Another Mauer singled (scoring Gomez and Span) moved the Twins to within a run once again, but Longoria’s third homer of the contest made the score 8-6 in favor of the home team. Remarkably, however, this was only the beginning of the game’s craziness.
After being shut down by Troy Percival in the eighth, the Twins began to build a rally off Rays closer Dan Wheeler in the top of the ninth when Span hacked a seeing-eye single to short. The next batter, Casilla, proceed to take Wheeler deep (and out!) to right to tie the game. Immediately following that, Mauer doubled to deep center field and Morneau was intentionally walked, bringing Trevor Miller into the game to presumably pitch to Jason Kubel. In a very strategic move, although one that could have severely backfired, Gardy sent in Adam Everett to pinch-bunt. With everyone in the stadium knowing the Everett would be dropping one down, he did exactly that…and saw it barely roll foul. Then, after milking a 2-1 count, Everett squared around early to sacrifice…and promptly pulled back, put a mighty swing on the ball, and launched it deep off the left field wall to score Mauer and give the Twins a 9-8 lead!
By the time the dust settled on that remarkable ninth inning, Delmon Young and Matt Tolbert had driven in two more runs, giving Joe Nathan a 11-8 lead that he protected 1-2-3 in the ninth. What a game!!
-On one hand, the Twins have to be extremely disappointed with Perkins’ “start” (if you can even call it that) tonight as well as his performance as of late. On the other hand, a comeback win is something the Twins have not enjoyed for awhile, so that has to help the clubhouse morale.
-I had a vision tonight of Alexi Casilla (with that long, looping swing of his) hitting a two-run jack in that ninth inning…I really did see it in my mind before it happened!!
-As the AL Central stands right now, I still have to give the division title to our boys. I think we will at least split with Tampa Bay, but the only thing that could throw a wrench in my prediction is if the White Sox go to Kansas City and unpack their brooms or something like that. I still stand by my word that if the Twins can take the division lead by winning two of three from the White Sox next week, we will do so. I will be attending the Tuesday night ChiSox confrontation, and I’m starting to get pumped up about it already!
Preview (83-70, 2nd, 1.5 GB CWS): Nick Blackburn (10-9, 3,89) vs. Edwin Jackson (11-11, 4.33). Who would have thought during Spring Training 2008 that the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays would be fighting for division titles on two consecutive nationally televised games (Fri: ESPN, Sat: FOX)?!