Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
Wednesday's game had the feeling of an 8-0 victory for much of the night. Scott Baker was sick (in a good way), the Rockies bats looked sick (by traditional definition) and the Twins were on base again and again and again against slow-working and strike zone-impaired Jhoulys Chacin. But another night of untimely hitting meant that the Twins were only ahead 2-0 after seven innings of Baker's 12-strikeout, two-hit, one-walk pitching.
(I will not criticize Gardy one bit for yanking Baker at that point -- given the combo platter of 108 pitches and the disaster from a week-and-a-half-ago when Baker was the man who stayed in too long in Oakland.)
In the eighth, Matt Guerrier (and his 0.93 WHIP) put the 7/8 guys on base with a double and a hit batsman and they were sacrificed ahead by the No. 9 batter.
Enter Jose Mijares to face top-of-the-order lefties Carlos Gonzalez and Todd Helton. The 2-0 became 2-1 on a passed ball, where Joe Mauer mishandled a pitch and then flubbed the quick ricochet off the limestone.
Man on third, one out, Gonzalez at the plate.
Mijares -- whom we want to believe in very, very much -- got the .300-hitting Gonzalez on a foul pop and faced Todd Helton, one of those guys who used to hit .320-plus with 30- or 40-plus homers ... and then started hitting .300-plus with fewer homers ... and this year is hitting .250 with two homers in 200 at-bats.
After a foul-prolonged battle to 3-and-2, Mijares got the strikeout and then did the full Berenguer on the mound. (You only saw part of it on FSN.)
And the ninth again belonged to Jon "STFD" Rauch, who is tied for the AL lead in saves with 17 and took care of the 3-4-5 guys without incident. (If you need to ask, you can't use the nickname. If you really need to ask, ask here.)
Yes, it would have been more satisfying early on to take a 6-0 lead and cruise home. But watching Mijares step up and Rauch step up again was worth the shortcomings that led to the ending.
This is a good time to point out that five of Rauch's last seven saves (and nine overall) have protected one-run leads, By comparison, 13 of Joe Nathan's 47 saves last season came while protecting one-run leads.
Think about that stat when you're debating whether the Twins need a new closer for late in the season.
**Best line of the night during the postgame on-field interview when Robby Inc. was talking to Nicky Rules and it was noted that "the Nick Punto of broadcasting was interviewing the Robby Incmikoski of baseball."
**Day game today -- and join me for a Live Chat at noon. Ubaldo vs. Frankie. Great reason for a long lunch.
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