Tuesday July 29, 2008
Apart from the few weeks that the Twins were sitting on top of the AL Central in the early months of 2008, the Twins had essentially been chasing the White Sox for the division lead the bulk of the season. In early June, the Sox lead had swelled to six games over the Twins – thanks in part to a four-game sweep at the hands of the Sox from June 6-9, leading some to speculate that the Twins might become dealers by the trade deadline.
As has been the case for the bulk of the interleague era, however, the Twins revived their season hopes by crawling back into the race at the expense of the National League, going 14-4 in interleague games, including a 10-game winning against the likes of Milwaukee, Arizona, Washington, and San Diego. By the time the White Sox popped up on the schedule again in late July, the Twins were just two games back.
The Twins took the first game of the series on a Kevin Slowey shutout. With only a game separating them in the standings, the two teams met again for game two of the series in the Metrodome.
Clayton Richard CHW (0-0, 9.00 ERA, making his second career ML appearance)
Glen Perkins MIN (7-3, 4.08 ERA, 46 K, 23 BB)
Here is Jim Souhan’s take on the big inning from the next day’s Star Tribune:
Want to know how the Twins — once nicknamed the “Little Piranhas” by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen — have chewed Chicago’s lead to half a game?
All you had to do was watch the fifth inning of the Twins’ 6-5 victory Tuesday.
The Twins trailed the White Sox 4-0. They had managed three singles. They were facing talented young lefty Clayton Richard, whose slinging arm action had them befuddled.
Then one typically unconventional Twins rally changed the game. “That’s a typical Minnesota Twins baseball game — 25 bloopers and a big blast,” Guillen said. “That’s the way they play. They have that nickname for a reason.”
Here’s how the inning developed, and why this rally proved emblematic of the Twins’ surprising rise:
Mike Redmond, backup catcher, leads off. With so many key hitters, such as Jason Kubel and Craig Monroe, struggling against lefthanders, Redmond is acting as designated hitter for the second game in a row.
Only the Twins would use a guy with no homers and six RBI as their DH when the division lead is at stake in late July. But every time you ridicule the Twins for using Redmond as a No. 3 hitter — or a DH — he seems to get a big hit.
This time, he nudges a bloop toward center. Chicago’s Brian Anderson sprints in, dives … and watches the ball pop out of his glove for a hit. The Igniter is on first, from whence he could easily score on three or four hits.
Brendan Harris is playing at shortstop because Alexi Casilla hurt his finger, meaning Nick Punto had to be moved to second. Whenever Harris settles at one position the Twins move him, but he’s become an important bottom-of-the-order hitter the last couple of months, and now he draws a walk.
Brian Buscher, perhaps the most notable overachiever of all the Twins, grounds to second, moving the runners up.
Up comes Carlos Gomez, who ran into the wall in Cleveland so hard he missed three starts. Now he’s back in center and gets his second hit, a soft-serve single to center that scores Redmond.
“We don’t hit the ball that great, and I got three base hits,” Gomez said. “That happens.”
Denard Span, the only Twin who can compare to Joe Mauer in quality of at-bats, draws a walk. Span’s approach should make him the Twins’ leadoff hitter for years to come.
Punto, an original Piranha, pops out, and it’s up to Mauer.
In his first at-bat, Mauer hit into a double play. In his second, Richard struck him out on a high fastball, one of the rare times this year Mauer has looked overmatched.
This at-bat will be classic Mauer — he picks out a fastball and raps it sharply up the middle. It bounces off Richard’s leg and caroms for a single and an RBI.
Up comes Justin Morneau. He won Sunday’s game with a ninth-inning double. He hit a two-run homer on Monday. He is the Twins’ most valuable player, and he has acquired the ability to flail at pitches until he finally gets one he can handle. On a 2-2 count, he yanks a liner to the baggie, and Mauer looks like Gomez sprinting home from first.
Thus concludes a classic Twins rally — two bloops, two walks, a solid Mauer single and a Morneau blast adding up to five runs.
This is how the Twins can rank last in the league in home runs (Chicago is first) and yet fifth in runs scored, right behind the Mighty White Sox.
“We call that Twinsball,” Morneau said. “Chopper, 27-hopper up the middle, blooper, and somebody gets a big hit. It seems like we do that with the best of them. You don’t ask how. You ask how many.”
The Twins held on for a win despite a Nick Swisher solo home run off of Joe Nathan in the ninth inning. A Joe Mauer RBI single in the seventh inning had given the home team the cushion it needed to survive, and ultimately to draw in a dead heat with the Sox in the division race.
For those who want a more well-rounded discussion of the game, here is a link to the game log at WGOM.
Ed. I noticed that Souhan mentioned the Twins were 1/2 game back after this win – figured that was just a mistake on his part. Then I saw the 1/2 game mentioned at WGOM. For what it is worth, B-R lists both teams at 59-47 after play on July 29. MLB.com says Sox 59-46, Twins 59-47. So, by a 3-1 count it looks as though the Twins were within a half game after this win, not tied.