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Pitching woes prove too costly for Twins

by Josh Newman
Blown calls. Long balls hit. Long balls surrendered. Yeah, we’ve seen it all year in this topsy-turvy season. I’ve got such a headache with all of these ups and downs that I’m feeling sick.

It continued last week as the Twins dropped four out of six contests in a very crucial week that pitted Minnesota against division foes Cleveland and Detroit to blow a great opportunity to gain some ground in the standings.

Things started off on the right foot in the opener against the Indians. In what might have been his best game of the season, Carlos Gomez recorded four RBI on the night, including a three-run homer in the fifth inning. Also, Scott Baker pitched seven scoreless innings and allowed just three hits as Minnesota won handily, 10-1.

Too bad every night can’t be Christmas. In Games 2 and 3, the Cleveland pitchers were not so giving. In Game 2, the Indians returned the favor with an 8-1 victory as they tagged Twins starter Francisco Liriano for four runs in five innings. Plus, Tribe starter Aaron Laffey allowed just one unearned run in eight strong innings to silence the Twins’ bats.

In Game 3, Minnesota was much better. Oh, the Twins had their chances. And lots of them. But when you go 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position, those chances don’t mean much unless they are sacrifice flies. Nick Blackburn pitched well, giving up just two runs in 6 1/3 innings of work. But without offense, there is no chance for victory. The final was 2-1, and the Twins lost another game in the standings.

The next series was not much better.

For the second consecutive week, the Twins had one starter fail to record more than three outs. Last time, it was Glen Perkins. This time, it was Anthony Swarzak. The youngster faced a total of 11 batters during his time on the mound. When he left the game in the second inning, the Twins were down 7-4.

Some people say the Twins got screwed in this game, and I agree. There was one very controversial call in the first inning involving Curtis Granderson and Brendan Harris. The play occurred when Granderson got caught in a rundown between third base and home on a grounder by Clete Thomas. Justin Morneau fielded the ball and tossed home to catch Granderson. Mauer then threw to Brendan Harris at third to try and get the out. Harris dove and made the tag, then looked to second base for the next throw.

However, the ruling was that Harris never tagged Granderson, even though replays clearly showed otherwise.

It was that blown call that set the tone for the first game with Detroit, which the Twins lost, 10-8. To make matters worse, Minnesota was able to throw a good game only in Game 2. Carl Pavano, making his first start in a Twins uniform, scattered five hits in seven innings as the Twins bounced the Tigers 11-0.

I strongly feel that this series might have been completely different had the umpire actually paid attention to that particular play. With a young team, a little frustration can have lasting impacts, and that is exactly what happened in this series as Minnesota dropped two out of three and lost a game in the standings to the Tigers.
It will be so good to see the Twins back home this week, though. They have a three-game series against both Kansas City and Cleveland, with a chance to get back at the Indians for last week’s embarrassment. As of the 10th, they boasted a record of 54-57 and a 31-23 mark at home. Plus, by some miracle, they stand only 5.5 games back of first-place Detroit.


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