Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Through six innings of Friday’s game against the Rangers, it looked as though the lineup of the Twins thought Eric Reining’s article from NolanWritin’ was addressed to them. Though facing an admittedly diminished Twins lineup, Darvish was nearly perfect through six, allowing no hits, a walk, and tallying 10 strikeouts.
However, the star of Silver Linings Playbook 2: The Second Half of Brian Dozier, was not going to go down so easily. With the Twins already trailing 2-0, with two on and two out, Dozier made the play of the game diving to his left on a grounder destined for right field, saving the Twins a run, and what was very likely the game.
As if this was not enough, in keeping with Bert Blyleven‘s, “One outta’ nine,” California math, Dozier led off the top of the 7th for the Twins. He walked. Chris Herrmann came to the plate, and with a 2-0 count (with a little help from the home plate umpire), Herrmann drilled the next pitch over the wall in right. Man, has he picked up some big hits in the short time he has been with the club this season. Tie game.
Two batters later, Trevor Plouffe stepped in 0-2 on the night, after striking out by more than a foot on a 61 mph curve ball from Darvish in his previous at-bat. Plouffe quickly fell behind 0-2, and history looked as though it would repeat itself. However, Plouffe battled back, and later doubled in what was one of his best at-bats in recent memory.
Clete Thomas followed with a single to center, and in a combination of one of the best throws I have ever seen from mid-center field by the Rangers’ Leonys Martin, Trevor Plouffe not wanting to slide, and/or missing an odd signal to get down from Darin Mastroianni, Plouffe was gunned down at the plate. It certainly looked as though Plouffe would have been in had he slid, and this served to put a damper on what was a strong comeback by the Twins against one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.
Darin Mastroianni, playing in his first game back with Twins since mid-April, doubled down on the miscues of the previous inning with an ill-advised dive for a fly ball in right, which allowed Mitch Moreland to advance to third for a gift triple. With only one out in the seventh, the “Here we go again” train of thought was beginning to gain serious traction. Thankfully, the Rangers didn’t get the run in from third, the Twins got out of the inning, and went on to win the game.
Liam Hendriks has been a bit of an enigma thus far in his time with the Twins, but performances like Friday reinforce the notion that he might be worth an extended look at the major league level. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was a good day for Hendriks who gave up one earned through six innings, picked up the win (just the second of his career), and beat a first place team with one of the best pitchers in baseball opposing him on the mound.
This is what makes this game fun to watch. The deficiencies of the current Twins’ roster are well documented, but on Friday night they rose to the occasion and stood toe-to-toe against a team that has a legitimate shot at winning it all in October. The Twins still need to rid themselves of some of the mental execution gaffes like Plouffe’s “stand up performance” at home plate, as stuff like this is occurring far too frequently.
However, at the end of the day, all of this serves to point out just how tenuous every game can be. One pitch, one swing, or one minute mistake can mean all the difference in the outcome of a game, or how a team is perceived by those who watched it. After missing out on that extra run, I was praying that it didn’t come back to hurt the Twins. Luckily, winning is the most forgetful kind of medicine, and despite the mistakes, for a couple of moments in the seventh the Twins made you forget their spot in the standings. Then they managed to hold on (thank goodness for Glen Perkins), and came out on top.
1. Roy Smalley had just finished stating that: “You don’t want to hit (Darvish’s) curve ball,” when Morneau hit his monstrous home run off the curve. I like Smalley, but at times his analysis of every pitch of the game makes me long for Bert Blyleven reading the scouting reports.
2. Justin Morneau hit 2 home runs with a .381 SLG% in the first 63 games of the season. In the last 63 games Morneau has hit 14 homers, with a .462 SLG%. It was said that as he rounded third and headed for home Friday, the twice spurned first baseman shouted: “How do’ya like them apples!”
To give Smalley his due, his comments about Morneau finally returning to form, after getting into bad habits to make up for his physical limitations while injured, seem to have some cause for support given Morneau’s recent production. I don’t know if this means the Twins should bring him back, but it certainly makes it much easier to justify, especially given the fact that Morneau is one of the more popular members of the team. We shall see.
3. Yu Darvish gave up three earned on three hits, two walks, struck out 11 in 6 and 2/3’s innings, and took a no hitter into the seventh inning tonight. He lost this one, and you know that this will have the talking heads in Texas going on about how he is a #1 starter rather than an ace, but from a Twins fan who has grown accustomed to watching our team struggle against solid (and sometimes not) starting pitching, the first six innings of Darvish tonight was one of the more thorough dominations I have witnessed in recent memory. Texas should be happy, and not make Yu angry, you won’t like Yu when he’s angry.