Before getting into the specifics of last night’s horrible loss, I just wanted to point out what ended up being the epitome of a Twins’ inning as of late:
In the top of the fifth inning, with the Twins trailing 2-0, September call-up Matt Tolbert tripled to deep center field (pictured above). So, in what looked to be a sure one run, both Carlos Gomez and Denard Span struck out, while Alexi Casilla grounded to second. Inning, rally, and perhaps game, over.
Yet, there actually turned out to be quite a few fireworks in this game, just not a whole lot for Twins fans. Joe Mauer’s bases-loaded double briefly put the Twins ahead 3-2 in the seventh inning, but the Jays tied it up again when Nick Punto couldn’t handle a routine grounder.
The Twins then got a huge clutch hit from Brendan Harris to go up 4-3 heading into the ninth, but Joe Nathan once again melted (could not find the plate) and Toronto tied it up.
In extras, the Twins kept going down 1-2-3, while the Jays rallied every inning. In the tenth, Nathan escaped a bases-loaded one out jam. In the eleventh, Eddie Guardado was called from the pen and promptly gave up two hits, to be quickly removed in favor of Boof Bonser. Toronto’s McDonald quickly blasted a double off Boof and won the game.
-Two weeks ago, I said that if the Twins could hang with the White Sox through this long road trip, we would have the advantage down the stretch. However, if our starting pitchers keep turning in short starts and the bullpen keeps blowing leads, this pennant race will crumble as fast as it did in 2001.
-You know your bullpen is in trouble when Bonser must be summoned in extra innings in a crucial situation. Yikes.
Preview (77-62, 2nd, 1.0 GB CWS): Kevin Slowey (11-8, 3.70) vs. Jesse Litsch (9-8, 4.01).
Despite jumping out to an early 5-1 thanks to RBI hits from Morneau, Mauer, Young, and Span, the Twins could not hold the lead as the Toronto Blue Jays stormed back with three runs in the fifth inning and two in the sixth to take a lead they would hold for good.
Offensively, the Twins’ bats were completely shut down from the fifth inning on by Toronto’s nearly all-lefty bullpen. Of course, a 5-1 lead should hold up, but Perkins (5 IP, 4 ER) struggled to get through his five innings of work and Boof Bonser (1 IP, 2 ER) took the loss by allowing a deep home run to Lyle Overbay.
-On any given night, the Twins can be absolutely stymied by left-handed pitching. I don’t know why…it just happens. Also, it seems as if more and more lefties are pitching in baseball today, as almost every series for every team will feature at least one southpaw. Are they really that difficult to hit?!
-For the past decade, the Twins have made the postseason by winning the close games. This has not been happening the last few weeks, and the team is really morose because of it, as nothing hurts more (not even a blowout, which one can put behind himself easier) than a loss that should have been a win. Luckily the ChiSox lost as well, but that can’t be counted on for the rest of September.
-Finally, the TV announcers had been making a big deal the last week over how well Boof Bonser has pitched out of the pen. I think the real Boof came back tonight.
Preview (77-61, T-1st w/CWS): Nick Blackburn (9-8, 3.75) vs. A.J. Burnett (16-10, 4.48). With staff ace Burnett on the mound, the Twins will likely have to prove themselves in another low-scoring contest.