Danks, a lot
Last night was a good ballgame, well-played. That’s actually my favorite type of game: pitcher’s duel, cleanly fielded with no errors, and only one long ball. The blast, sadly, just didn’t come from our dugout.
Tuesday night’s 1-0 Central Division tiebreaker to Chicago loss was the Twins’ 52nd one-run ballgame of the 2008 season. It proved just the second time the club was shutout since July 21st. Their record in one-run games? 26-26. So flip a coin. And speaking of currency, it won’t surprise me in the slightest if there is some serious backlash about the way in which MLB suits determine where games like last night’s are played. A coin flip? After 6 months of toil? It’s just so sophomoric. Let the club with the better record host the deal. Who can argue with that?
Furthermore, there is little arguing that Twins’ starter Nick Blackburn had himself an excellent outing last night, displaying the pluck and mettle of which “Big Game” pitchers are made. Equally stellar was young Jose Mijares, providing 1.1 innings of tense, hitless relief. 8 of his 14 pitches were thrown for strikes. Joe Nathan recorded the final out in the bottom of the 8th.
Blackburn provided an inspiring 6.1 innings of 4 hit, 3 walk, 3 strikeout ball -- it was the third of those hits that proved the difference in going home, or going onward to play Tampa on Thursday in the ALDS. But Jim Thome’s bomb was true. The 541st of his career, it left deep center without a question as to its merit.
The Twins’ own bats proved quite lame against both starter John Danks and closer Bobby Jenks. When your club has fewer hits than your opponent has blonde-dyed hairdo’s -- that ain’t good. The boys worked 3 walks on the night, but earned just two hits, Michael Cuddyer’s 5th inning double and Brendan Harris’ 8th inning single. The two ballers played key roles in what really proved to be the key run-threatening moment for the Twins Tuesday, as Cuddyer attempted to tag from third on a short fly to Ken Griffey Jr. in center. With our tally of “0” already noted -- you can assume the result of said play. Or, please feel free to view it here.
Gentle readers, while the loss of anything we hold close and toward which we devote ample time results in pain, the reality of time will, as always, assuage those wounds. Many positives can be taken from last night -- namely, that Joe Mauer won his second American League batting title with a mark of .328, edging out Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia at .326. As has been well-documented, this is the St. Paul-native’s second batting crown, and he is the only A.L. catcher to lay claim to even one. Many high-fives to the 25-year old who, in just 5 seasons, has already cemented his name in Twins’ lore, while also earning widespread recognition as the best all-around catcher in baseball.
In addition, that ballgame will no doubt provide ample and incalculable motivation to our young squad of ballers. The Twins fielded 14 players last night -- 11 of them are presently 27 or younger. That bodes well.
Last night we lost the duel, and the bullet in our respective guts is surely further soured by the fact that the discharge came via the hand of our rival. But we’re not down, just recovering. And given the character of our manager, our team, and the Twin mentality, I have no reservation in saying that 2009 will offer further, beautifully tense moments.
Please note, readers, that I will be providing two more Twins/MLB articles over the course of the next week. Until then, I readily and warmly thank you for your support and readership over the course of what has proven a most unexpected, and inspiring run of 163 games, taking us to the cusp of the unknown.