It is hard to believe that this was the same team that booted the ball around the field and handed a game to Kansas City the night before. The Twins came out on top in a game that almost took a postseason atmosphere towards the final innings.
The hero, of course, was Francisco Liriano. With a Bill James game score of 79, Liriano’s performance on Friday night ranks as the third best of the year (1. Liriano 4/27 84; 2. Baker 5/8 80). He had many of the Braves flailing at his slider, and looked unhittable for much of the game. After a few rough outings in the month of May, it looks as though Liriano may be back to his April form. Between Liriano and closer Jon Rauch, Twins’ pitchers struck out 14.
Tim Hudson was equally as good but in a different way. Hudson didn’t strike out a single Twin until he needed to get Jim Thome with the bases loaded. His game was the classic sinker ball game. The Twins were able to make contact, but rarely good contact. He had a little luck early in the game when a few well-hit balls found gloves in the field, but it evened out when the Twins put together a two-run rally in the seventh largely on what Dick Bremer correctly classified as “Piranha” base hits.
In terms of play, it was one of the best games of the year so far for the Twins. I am always biased towards a good pitcher’s duel, and that is exactly what the Twins and Braves provided. Perhaps it was the contrast with Thursday’s sloppy debacle, but I found this to be one of the most entertaining games of the year.
WPA Stars of the Game
1. Francisco Liriano
2. Jason Kubel
3. Jon Rauch
Standings (through Friday)
1. Min 36-25, 290-235, –
2. Det 31-29, 263-267, 4.5
3. Chi 27-33, 256-294, 8.5
4. KC 26-36, 273-313, 10.5
5. Cle 24-36, 251-301, 11.5
Game two of this series offers another potentially intriguing pitching matchup. Nick Blackburn hasn’t made it out of the fourth inning in either of his last two starts, but prior to that he was the Twins’ most reliable starter in 2010. Derek Lowe is also coming off a bad start – he allowed seven runs in four innings to Arizona, but take out a few other bad starts and he has been very effective this year.