Three days after the All-Star break, the Minnesota Twins were flying high. They had just taken two of three from the Rangers (and could have easily swept them if not for a walk-off home run in the final game) and were right back in the division race.
Four days later, that feeling has been squashed like an unlucky squirrel on an Interstate.
In Oakland, it turned out that we were lucky to win a single contest (and in extra innings at that). The other two games were an embarassment, and well, maybe even a bigger embarassment, respectively.
Then, there was last night in Anaheim. Scott Baker looked great through four innings, then tanked (as he so often does) in the fifth, allowing the Halos to claw back to within one run at 3-2 (the Twins had done some early scoring thanks to Mauer and Kubel).
From that point, both teams alternated runs until the ninth inning, when the Twins handed the ball to Joe Nathan with a 5-3 lead. Right away, though, it was apparent that Nathan (for whatever reason) just didn’t have his usual “stuff” out on the mound. He walked the first batter of the inning on a wild curveball, then hit another guy to put the game-tying runs on base.
Of course, that is when the next “strange thing” reared it’s head. With a run already in and runners at the corners with two outs, Nathan was able to coax Angels batter Howie Kendrick to hit a weak little tapper up the middle. Both Alexi Casilla and Nick Punto converged on the sphere to try and get the final out, but this was the end result…
On a freak play, the ball hit off the corner of the second base bag and bounded away from both fielders, allowing Mike Napoli to score the tying run. Had the ball not honed in on that base, it looked as if Punto would have been able to make the play and end the game.
So, it was off to extra innings once again. The Twins went down 1-2-3 in their half of the tenth, then brought in there “new” callup from Triple-A…Jesse Crain. As soon as I saw him coming into the game, I was more sure than I had ever been in my life that the Twins were going to lose this game. The soundtrack in my head…
A seeing-eye single from Chone Figgins to open the inning, after which he was quickly bunted to second, only sealed the deal. True to form, Crain actually gave fans a smidgen of hope when he struck out Kendrie Morales, but a gapper from Napoli quickly had the Twins trotting back to the visitors dugout.
Final thought: The Twins are sinking (although not out yet), the starting rotation (unless Blackburn throws a gem every outing) is a mess, and Crain is probably a basket case by now and should be put on the waiver wire.
Preview (48-48, 3rd, 2.5 GB DET & CWS): Francisco Liriano (4-9, 5.33) vs. John Lackey (5-4, 4.39).