Twins-Angels: Jason Kubel's Slam Saves Twins Bullpen

Dan WadeSenior Analyst IApril 18, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 6: Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire sends Jesse Crain #28 of the Minnesota Twins to the showers during a game against the Seattle Mariners at the Metrodome on April 6, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)

In yesterday's column, I pointed out that the Twins have had trouble finding the right reliever to get critical third outs late in games. Tonight was no different.

With the game tied 3-3 in the sixth inning, Jesse Crain came on in relief of Nick Blackburn, who had a quality start, save the runner on third base. Crain hadn't given up a run in his last five appearances and had given up just one run total this season.

Friday night, the lid came off. Crain not only allowed the runner from third to score, but four runs of his own on two hits and a walk in just one-third of an inning of work.

Matt Guerrier couldn't stop the runs, and by the time the seventh inning had ended, the Twins found themselves down five runs.

Fortunately for the Twins, the Angels' bully wasn't much better.

Every half inning from the bottom of the sixth to the bottom of the eighth, saw at least one run cross the plate. Justin Speier and Joe Nathan were the only pitchers not to give up a run.

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Still, the Twins were treading water and running out of innings until the bottom of the eighth. Michael Cuddyer led off with a single and Brian Buscher struck out, bringing up the bottom of the order.

Joe Crede walked, Mike Redmond singled (scoring Cuddyer), and Nick Punto walked. When the entire bottom of the order reaches base, good things tend to happen. Denard Span doubled in two more, but Brendan Harris was caught looking to set the stage for Justin Morneau.

Only Morneau never got the chance. Angels' pitcher Jason Bulger elected to intentionally walk the Twins' RBI machine in favor of pitching to Jason Kubel. While this may seem like a good idea, Kubel had already gone 3-for-4 and needed just a home run to complete his cycle.

Additionally, consider Kubel's history in these situations. 

In June of 2006, the Twins and Red Sox were locked in an extra innings showdown, with the Red Sox taking their first lead of the game 2-1 in the top of the 12th inning. Red Sox reliever Julian Tavarez elected to intentionally walk Torii Hunter to load the bases with Kubel waiting in the on deck circle.

With the count full, Kubel launched a blast just over the baggy in right field to win the game.

Friday, Kubel saw just one pitch before Bulger hung a curveball at Kubel's letters. Unlike his slam against the Sox, this one was a no-doubt shot into section 210. A two-run deficit became a two-run lead in one swing of the bat.

In saving the Twins bullpen, Kubel became the 14th Twins player to hit for the cycle (including their days as the Washington Senators) and the first since Carlos Gomez did it last year.

Joe Nathan converted his second save in as many chances this season, needing just six pitches to close out the Angels.

The Twins take the field tomorrow, hoping to equal their longest winning streak of the season, behind Kevin Slowey.

Slowey found a mechanical flaw in his delivery during a bullpen session earlier this week, so he should be sharper than in his outing against the Blue Jays.

His mound opponent will be Darren Oliver, who is making his first outing of the season as the Angels cope with injuries to their pitching staff, as well as Nick Adenhart's untimely death.

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