If not for the home runs, the Twins and White Sox would have been some frustrated baseball teams on Friday. Neither one could get a clutch hit, each made a baserunning mistake, both issued too many walks, and both were victimized by some exceptional defense. Solo home runs, though, covered up the lack of offense for each.
In particular, Clete Thomas hustled to the center field fence to track down a Dayan Viciedo fly ball that would have scored two runs in the sixth inning of Game 2. And Gordon Beckham stretched out in a desperation dive to reach Joe Mauer's hard grounder to right, ending the eighth inning with the go-ahead run rounding third base.
The Twins don't mind, of course, since they rallied to win both games. But it was an odd night for the offense, which had outhomered only the Yankees and Royals at the start of the day. (They've outhomered another team now, too -- Chicago.)
Anyway, a couple of extra notes from a long day at the ballpark:
-- I know it's a fluke stat, but still, it's not very often you get to invoke the name Walter Johnson, believed by many historians to be the greatest pitcher in baseball history. So I enjoyed very much that Brian Duensing became, according to Elias Sports Bureau, the first pitcher in franchise history since The Big Train to win two games in one day. Duensing did it by facing only four batters, and just happened to be the pitcher of record when Justin Morneau hit his grand slam to give Minnesota the lead, and Oswaldo Arcia broke the 10th-inning tie in the second game.
Johnson, pitching for the Twins' ancestor Washington Senators, beat the St. Louis Browns twice in DC's Griffith Stadium (named for Senators owner Clark Griffith, whose nephew Calvin Griffith moved the team to Minneapolis in 1961) on Sept. 17, 1923. Johnson pitched the final three innings of the first game in relief of starter Cy Warmoth and reliever Firpo Marberry, getting the win when the Senators scored in the 10th. Then the future Hall of Famer pitched a complete game in the second game, allowing only one earned run in a 12-2 victory that ended, for unknown reason, after seven innings.
The two victories that day improved Johnson to just 15-10, a rather pedestrian season (he finished 17-10) in a career that included a dozen 20-win seasons, a 36-7 record exactly a century ago in 1913, and 417 career victories. Duensing's two wins Friday improved him to 6-1 on the season -- third on the team in wins, behind Samuel Deduno and Kevin Correia's seven apiece -- and a 34-32 career record.
-- Kyle Gibson now has pitched 134 2/3 innings in Triple-A and the majors this season, and his guess -- though he emphasized that nobody in the organization has told him this -- is that the Twins don't want him to exceed 150-160.
Though Terry Ryan has not put an exact number on Gibson's limit, the team doesn't want to increase his workload too quickly after he pitched just 50 innings last year, counting fall league. Meaning, the rookie righthander likely only will make three to five more starts this year, tops.
"Not being able to play would be difficult," said Gibson, who had elbow reconstruction surgery in Nov. 2011. "It would kind of take me back to 2010, when they shut me down after 150 [innings]. That wasn't any fun. But I've just got to make sure I focus on the next three, four, five starts, whatever it is, and try to keep getting better."
-- On a day when the White Sox traded one of their best hitters just before first pitch, Justin Morneau did plenty to increase his own trade value, too.
Morneau crushed a 1-2 fastball over the Twins' bullpen with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, his first grand slam since 2009, then added a solo blast in the ninth inning. Morneau's 20th career multi-home run game gave him five homers and 11 RBIs in August, already far more production than the four homers and five RBIs he had in July, when the Twins received no offers worth pursuing for the former MVP. Morneau's contract expires at the end of the season, making him a potential trade target for contending teams.
White Sox outfielder Alex Rios had been another logical target, and the White Sox reached an agreement with Texas just minutes before Friday's first game, dealing Rios to the Rangers for a player to be named later.
Is Morneau worried that potential trade partners, should he clear waivers and be eligible to be dealt, might be interested now that he's swinging better?
"That's out of my control," the Canadian slugger said. "I don't think a hot streak or a cold streak will affect that too much. If a team feels like I can contribute, if they feel it's worth giving up something, that'll happen. If not, I'm happy here."