La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Twins postgame: Cuddyer's dashes in the ninth lift the Twins

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: July 19, 2011 - 11:59 PM

Michael Cuddyer drives me mad sometimes when he hits a single to drive in a run then heads to second to draw a throw to make sure that run scores. I think there have been times when that run was scoring anyway.

Other than that, I think Cuddy is a pretty darn good baserunner with great instincts. And he showed it again in the ninth inning on Tuesday during the Twins' 2-1 win over Cleveland.

With Joe Mauer on first and one out, Cuddyer dropped a fly ball into short left field and not far off the foul line. Mauer headed to third. Cuddyer never stopped at first and beat the throw for a double.

Luis Valbuena, normally an infielder, was in left field because Travis Buck was hit in the head by a Francisco Liriano pitch earlier in the game (Buck left the game with a head contusion, but no signs of a concussion). And Buck was a late replacement for  Michael Brantley, who was sick.

When you're on the bases, you must take in your surroundings, look for an advantage and look for situations where you can gamble. Cuddyer looked out to left field and gambled.

``Valbuena's not an outfielder, nothing against him or whatever, but I know he’s a second baseman, and he’s playing outfield,'' Cuddyer said. ``And I knew he was playing in no doubles with me at the plate (that means deep), and any outfielder -- it doesn’t matter if it’s an experienced outfielder or a guy who’s filling in for injury is playing no doubles - so I knew he was playing deep, and right off the bat, I knew I had to get to second and I was able to slide in there.

``At the end, knowing he was going to be playing deep because he’s not played out there very often, I knew I had to take a chance, and fortunately it dropped in there for us.

Jim Thome was walked  intentionally to load the bases. Danny Valencia came to the plate and hit a single to left. Again, Cuddyer played the advantage. He was off at crack of the bat and roared around third without hesitating. He slid in easily with the winning run.

``Right when it was hit, I had to go. I made the decision,'' Cuddyer said. ``If I would have been doubled up, I would have been the goat, and that’s the way it would have been. Fortunately it didn’t happen.''

``Once I made a decision, you don’t have time to think. It’s either going to work out for me, or I’m going to be the idiot, and fortunately I wasn’t an idiot tonight.''

 

 

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