Games like these are necessary from time to time—for both teams. The Tigers must feel energized by their 9-0 in-your-face victory, which featured seven great innings from Porcello and a big bouquet of hits from Jim Leyland’s reshuffled lineup.
For the Twins, a loss like this is a chance to practice pulling your head into your shell. Just cover your eyes and maybe it will all go away.
For the first two innings, it seemed Nick Punto did all our fielding. Our successful fielding, that is. He ended the first inning with a great twisteroo grab and throw to first that saved a run, limiting the Tigers to a 1-0 lead.
In the second, Punto snared an easy ground out. But the rest of the team seemed dead set on filming their blooper reel. Here’s how the Tigers coasted to score five runs and go up 6-1.
Magglio Ordonez and Brandon Inge are both quick ground ball outs. They end up the only two Tigers who don’t crowd the box score with hits or walks. So it would seem Blackburn has settled down after a troubled first inning, two outs. How dangerous can that be?
Blackburn walks Gerald Laird, on four pitches. Laird is a respectable catcher but by no means fearsome presence at the plate. Shortstop Ramon Santiago doubles to right, scoring Laird—and it took an el grande double to get the slow-motoring Laird home.
Josh Anderson hits a saggy line drive to left, where Delmon Young has to decide between charging hard to dive for it and hanging back to play the hop. Well, wrong choice.
I fear Young doesn’t have the diving gene, because I never see him throwing himself after anything out there. Today’s mincing glove stab deflects the ball. The official scorer gives Anderson a single and Young an error, allowing Anderson on to second. The main consequence is another run scored.
The new batter, Placido Polanco, solicits the Twin’s next error. He hits a hot shot to right, where Michael Cuddyer has some scampering to do to grab it, spin, and throw to the cutoff man, Alexi Casilla.
Casilla seems to want to check his notes on which base might be most deserving of a throw. After further review, he selects...none of them. Polanco’s safe at first, and Anderson is on third.
The stage is set for Clete Thomas, who had his season debut in the first with a double. Leyland has given him the start in right field and the third spot in the batting order, and Thomas is happy to receive these treasures. He triples to right and scores Anderson and Polanco.
The Detroit fans who stuck around after the Tigers have run up the score to 9-0 are largely waiting to see if Thomas manages to hit for the cycle in his first game of 2009. He does secure the double and rocks himself back on his heels with several attempts at that elusive homer, but must be satisfied with a 3-4 night, two RBIs, and a walk.
Now Miguel Cabrera is up, and all it takes is a single to send Thomas in from third. After the two quick outs, Blackburn has spent the entire inning under assault. He’s still reeling when he faces Curtis Granderson.
His first two pitches are balls, and Twins broadcaster Dick Bremer notes that Blackburn can’t locate his fastball and has been forced to turn to breaking stuff in pursuit of strikes. Against Granderson, the tide finally turns, and Morneau fields an easy ground out.
Now, you can’t really write descriptively about nothing. The Twins trudge on through the game, turning in their outs. Porcello has the high excitement of allowing a hit in the second and fifth (in both cases promptly solved with a double play) and issuing a walk in the third, but otherwise glides through seven innings.
Every young pitcher should have a great confidence-building game, and Porcello has the Twins to thank for his.
He starts the seventh and allows a lead off hit, the biggest dilemma he’s made for himself all night. Another double play, another problem solved. But wait, a walk. A single by Jason Kubel, and finally, Porcello can have a cathartic scare. He walks Joe Crede to load the bases. But when a team has nuthin’, nothing happens—Cuddyer grounds out to end the inning.
The Tigers’ bullpen now features former starter Nate Roberston, who repeats the bases-loaded fire drill in the eighth. As fervid a fan as I am, I can assure you that at no time in the seventh or eighth did I actually feel a shiver of hope. Bases loaded by a team with nuthin’? Nothing happens. Robertson keeps the shutout shut tight.
Blackburn is pulled in the fourth, almost mysteriously inept. His last two starts had been excellent, and whatever troubled him tonight was a fog that wasn’t going to lift. He had, sad to say, nuthin’.
The hitters produce a grand total of five hits, three of them by Jason Kubel, who didn’t get on the nuthin’ bus. The others were by Alexi Casilla, badly in need of repairing a .167 batting average, and Cuddyer, who does not let this lousy night at the park get in the way of his hitting renaissance.
These hits constitute our complete list of accomplishments. The hopeful (or blind, or idiotic) fan wants to see it all as getting something out of the team’s system.
After spreading 10 errors over the previous 26 games, the Twins commit three tonight (add Crede’s lead glove glitch in the third to those mentioned earlier). At no time were we in true danger of scoring a run. Our starter never got started, giving up eight hits, three walks, and nine runs, six of them earned around those errors.
It was kind of the opposite of baseball. It was, nuthin’.