Joe Crede missed three games with a hamstring strain at the end of last week. His return couldn't have come at a better time for the Minnesota Twins.
A night after homering in his return, Crede finally ended Wednesday's 13-inning marathon by launching a walk-off grand slam into the left field bleachers, his fifth home run on the year.
The Twins started off the 13th down a run after Jesse "Gas Can" Crain balked in a run with two outs and two strikes on Clete Thomas. Jason Kubel, who had tied the game in the eighth with his pinch-hit two run home run, singled, moved to second on a sacrifice and pinch runner Nick Punto scored on Matt Tolbert's bloop single.
Then came the walks.
With two outs, Justin Morneau was intentionally passed. The move made sense, he had already gone deep once in this game (nearly five hours prior, but nevertheless in the same game).
Next, Michael Cuddyer was unintentionally walked to load the bases. Crede then took Brandon Lyon's 1-2 pitch deep and sent the home fans away happy.
Lost in the five hour, six home run barrage was the performance of the Twins bullpen.
R.A. Dickey, Joe Nathan, and Jose Mijares combined 4.2 innings of shutout relief, but only after Matt Guerrier and Louis Ayala conspired to spot the Tigers four runs in their single inning and before Jesse Crain allowed Curtis Granderson to moon walk home on his balk.
The rampant inconsistency of the 'pen is a perfect microcosm of the bullpen's struggles all year.
On any given night, the Twins have two relievers I trust with the ball: Joe Nathan and Jose Mijares. Matt Guerrier has been more effective this year than he was last year, but as Wednesday night showed, he can still be spotty.
Guerrier, Crain, and Dickey are are capable of giving an inning or two of good relief, but are so far from consistent that it is impossible to know what kind of performance each will yield night in and night out. That state of uncertainty is what makes the end of many Twins games so unpleasant to watch.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If Gardy cannot, with confidence, give the ball to someone in a tight game, they shouldn't be on the team.
Louis Ayala has given up 11 runs in just 16 innings of work. The Twins seriously don't have someone else who can do better somewhere in the minors?
Suggestions on how to fix this team will come in an entirely different column. Tonight, its worth basking in a hard fought win, but only while recognizing that this was a lucky break; one that won't save the Twins as often as they'll need saving.
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