The trading deadline is two days away and the Twins will not be solving their infield problems by acquiring Freddy Sanchez from the Pirates. That’s certain now, as the Giants have snapped him up. Other than some call-ups from the minors, we are finishing the season with Joe Crede, Brian Buscher, Brendan Harris, Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, and Alexi Casilla.
It’s now officially fashionable to write the Twins off, precisely because of those six hitting lightweights. My theory is that any one or two of them would be fine on a major league roster, but all six become a collective liability.
Now, don’t look to a daily account for trend detection, but I’ve seen this motley group contribute to all of the recent wins, including tonight’s 3-2 squeaker that sweeps the White Sox. Maybe we can return to snapping, scarpping piranha glory again.
Alexi Casilla had two RBIs, with smooth leadoff hitter Denard Span collecting the other. The runs were all scored by the bottom of the order: Crede, Gomez, and Punto.
Add to this a bullpen that held the Sox scoreless for four innings, and an emergency start from rookie Brian Duensing, who acquitted himself well for five innings, and you have a team using all its bits and parts to stay in contention.
Duensing has been seen lately in middle relief, but tonight he was tapped to start when Francisco Liriano was pronounced in need of rest. After two serene innings, Duensing allowed a homer to Jayson Nix.
In the fifth, Carlos Quentin likewise lead off with a homer, but that was all the damage done. During the three-game series, Chicago has only been able to score on the long ball.
Jose Contreras started for the Sox, and pitched in his typical slow, lumbering manner. The Twins tapped out some hits, but had trouble putting much scoring together. But in the second, Gomez singled and Punto walked. With one out, Casilla hit an RBI double, and Span followed with a groundout that scored Punto.
At last, we’re around to the mighty section of the batting order, but all Joe Mauer can do is walk. Justin Morneau doesn’t top it all off, but strikes out. It’s the bottom of the order that does the job.
The Sox hit their two solo homers to tie it, and this game looks like it’s stuck in the same mud of the close Chicago-Minnesota playoff last season. We’re seeing a combination of pretty good—but not great—pitching and pretty poor—but not awful—hitting.
Both teams want the win fiercely. With it, the Twins can sweep the series and break out of a tie for second place in the division with the Sox. Chicago wants to avoid the sweep and not surrender the position they’ve held over the Twins for most of the season.
Tense and slow it goes, particularly when Contreras makes his languid, hypnotic throws. In the sixth, Crede leads off with a walk and Gomez executes a tidy sac bunt to advance him. Punto flies out, but Casilla raps a liner through to center to score Crede. Tie broken, slender advantage achieved.
This is not a comfortable lead, and Joe Nathan does not have a quiet ninth. Gordon Beckham leads off with a single, and the game seems ready to tilt toward the Sox.
Nathan is heading into a tough part of the order, but he grits his teeth and puffs out his cheeks to strike out Jermaine Dye. Ever so delicately, the balance leans a little Twins-ward.
But Paul Konerko won’t play along with any of that swinging at strikes business. He works a walk, and the tying run is now on second. This is what they mean by a save opportunity, because it’s just as much a loss opportunity. Ozzie Guillen brings in Dewayne Wise to run for Beckham.
Chris Getz strikes out swinging, but Mauer can’t corral the wild pitch that fooled Getz so. The runners advance.
The runners loom. It’s up to Mark Kotsay with two outs, and Nathan summons his closer’s chutzpah and throws one pitch. Kotsay bites and flies out. The sweep is complete.