Today was a day when you’re grateful for the long season, because it’s big enough to bury a complete collapse of offense and defense. The Twins made this three-game series with the Oakland A’s a crazy-making saga of extremes.
On Monday, the Twins managed to misplace a 10-run lead. That’s correct, they pretty much left the keys in the car and the doors unlocked and just, uh, kind of forgot where they parked it. The A’s drove off, and their final tire squeal was a blown home plate call. Michael Cuddyer actually was safe, and the Twins actually did tie the game, but a man in blue waved the A’s out of the parking lot anyway.
Yesterday, the game was a long duel, tied 2-2 all the way to extra innings. The Twins squeaked through on a Cuddyer RBI triple to avenge, very quietly, the previous night’s debacle.
This afternoon is getaway day, but the A’s don’t seem to care how late they’ll be arriving in New York for a series with the Yankees.
They got some scoring to do.
The Twins actually strike first, with a Justin Morneau solo homer off rookie Trevor Cahill in the first. It would have scored Denard Span too if he hadn’t gotten eager enough on the base paths to get caught stealing. Well, 1-0 Twins. Off we go.
Glen Perkins is pitching. When I last saw him, he was still visibly muzzle-headed from a cold. Today I have only the A’s radio announcers to rely on, but I don’t need much in the way of description. The results are telling enough. Perkins allows five runs in the first.
Matt Holliday has officially come to life in this Twins series. And I don’t think we can just blame it on Twins pitching, because Holliday has chosen an interesting moment to become a valuable hitter. The trading deadline is a little more than a week away, and the A’s are going nowhere. They will be happy to deal him, and his price is finally rising.
Nasty baseball economics aside, I’m happy for Holliday, who is finally looking at ease as an Athletic, however briefly he may remain one. A little too at ease, for he drives in the first Oakland run. The A’s bat around, with backup catcher Landon Powell nabbing another RBI, but it looks like it might be a manageable inning until Rajai Davis triples in three runs.
Ugly. Perkins has nothing out there.
And it’s not a brief loss of command but a full meltdown. He allows a single and a walk to start the second, and then gets right to dishing out the home run balls. Scott Hairston smashes in three runs and Perkins is sent to the showers.
I am busy visualizing this as the radio provides the bare framework of details. Kevin Mulvey, our brand new middle reliever who hasn’t yet suggested he will plug our bullpen holes, is up next. Is he ready to shut the A’s down, or can they feast on him too?
The answer is: pass the salt, for Mulvey gives up four more runs.
The A’s, I must remind you, are one of the weakest hitting teams in baseball, but this afternoon they’re ripping line drives left and right. It begins to look like the baseball rule makers may have made a grave error in not putting in a clock to limit such scoring sprees, because the A’s don’t seem capable of running out of gas.
Finally, mercifully, Scott Hairston, the 12th batter of the inning, flies out.
It’s 12-1, A’s.
Having just had the object lesson of being on the losing end of a massive comeback two days ago, the Twins may well have nursed some hope. Being so far down so early, you have only two choices: succumb or scrap on.
The Twins do not, in effect, do any scrapping. Cahill’s worst moment came and went in the first on Morneau’s long ball. He allows only six hits through seven innings, and not a whisper of a run.
Meanwhile, RA Dickey finally puts a cap on the gusher the A’s struck. He pitches two scoreless innings, but then that pesky hitting itch strikes Oakland again. They lash out for three more in the fifth—15-1.
Later, with Brian Duensing on the mound, the A’s go for an even number of runs when Brendan Harris makes an error to allow Kurt Suzuki to drive in Ryan Sweeney.
Yes, Kurt Suzuki is in the game. Of all things, backup catcher Powell has to leave with an injury and on getaway day, the catcher they’re trying to rest has to come in and join the scoring parade. Perhaps it’s an invigorating interlude for him.
The score is 16-1, and the Twins haven’t threatened to do anything more than sullenly field their positions since the first inning. They will amass a treasure trove of six hits through the game. They will do next to nothing with the five walks the A’s bestow on them. They will, it must be said, stink.
In the ninth, manager Bob Geren wants to try out rookie reliever Edgar Gonzalez. It’s very hard for a game like this to have an interesting ninth inning. In fact, one has to assume that players and staff are restless to get on with their getaway. But Gonzalez wants to keep us engaged.
He gets Michael Cuddyer out leading off, then walks Brendan Harris. Then he walks Brian Buscher. And then, just because there are three bases, he walks Nick Punto.
This is not the time to be experimenting with pitches. The tried and true strike is all you need to throw with a 15-run lead. Yet somehow Gonzalez is losing the knack for it.
Now, if this were the fourth inning we’d have time for the comeback that comes back from Monday’s blown lead. But it’s the ninth, with one out. Alexei Casilla has a chance to get an RBI or two, but not much chance to launch us off on a brand new winning streak.
The game ends in a swift double play, and both teams get their luggage and go. For the A’s, who take the series 2-1, there is bound to be pure joy as they head out of town. For the Twins, who have seen every possible baseball sorrow in the last three days, there is surely gloom.
I’m glad I didn’t have to watch, but the radio told me more than enough.