Minnesota Twins' Up and Down Season...Joe Nathan To Blame?
I write this article while keeping track of the Twins game on Yahoo! GameChannel...what an invention. The game from last night I left without a recap? What a game. Amazing performance by both teams. But the true story in that was the 9th inning. When all seemed lost, the Twins stuck with it and came back for a 5-run 9th and held that through the ninth for an amazing come-from-behind win in the ballpark of the team with the best home record in the MLB. It started with a single and a game-tying 2-run homerun by Alexi Casilla and went up from there.
The truly amazing play though, came with Adam Everett batting with 2 runners on first and second with no out and the score still tied at 8-8. On pitch one came a beautiful pitch that he bunted literally inches foul but otherwise a perfectly placed bunt. He took pitches two and three because they were balls, and in doing so was able to assess the motions in the infield knowing that he would not be able to get off a bunt. So with a 2-1 count to him, he shows bunt and literally a split second before the pitch was released pulled back and smashed a double off of the wall in left field that scored the go-ahead run in Joe Mauer from second.
But the real worry for Twins fans in that game, I believe, was assuming they got the lead, could Joe Nathan hold the lead for the win? My dad made the comment while we were sitting there with the Twins tied and runners on second and third with no out, "Hey, we still need four more runs before we can be sure that Nathan won't blow the lead."
Joe Nathan hadn't pitched since the game against Cleveland in which he gave up a three-run walk-off homerun (see my other article) to cathcher Victor Martinez. Before that, he and the rest of the Twins bullpen had made some "less-than-stellar" outings recently. We wonder why the Twins are slumping? The answer lies in the fact that our bull pen can't hold a lead. I can count on one hand the number of scoreless innings by the Twins bull pen in the last 2 weeks.
Tonight, however, our problem was not our bull pen, (which happened to pitch 2 scoreless innings) but our starting pitching. Nick Blackburn and Boof Bonser (actually a member of the bullpen) combined for 9 earned runs given up over five innings. However, you can't blame it all on the bullpen, the Twins had just seven base-runners and were 1-4 with runners in scoring position.
Now, with just 8 games left in the Twins' regular season, it is looking like it will be up to the series in Chicago to decide the AL central division winner. But before that we have to get through 2 more games at Tropicana Field in Tampa Bay, FL. After that and the series at Chicago, this leaves them with a three game series at the Dome against Kansas City. Worst case scenario is that they lose the last two against the Rays and get swept by Chicago in which case it is impossible for them to take the division. Anything else leaves them with a slim chance of making the playoffs.
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