"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Small Ball Keeps Twins In the Game

There are pitchers out there who just have our number. Some of them seem have it every time (Bartolo Colon springs to mind), and some of them occasionally forget it but shut us down at the least opportune moment, like when we're 4 1/2 games behind the Whine Sox.

Young Baltimore lefty Eric Bedard, while no Johan Santana, had our number last night. Luckily, the defense behind him wasn't keeping pace with his outstanding performance. Through seven innings, the Twins managed only three hits and two walks against Bedard, but managed to score three runs. Homers, you wonder? No. They didn't get the big hits, but they did all the little things right.

In the first, Stewart reached on a two-base error, Punto laid down a sacrifice bunt to move him to third, and Morneau hit a two-out RBI single to center. Does Stewart score from second if Punto fails to sacrifice? I don't think so, the single wasn't that deep. Likewise if Stewart hadn't hustled out the extra base on the original error.

In the fifth, down 3-1, LeCroy walked, then Ford banged into a fielder's choice. But the third baseman overthrew the second baseman, and instead of the forceout at second we got runners at first and third, as LeCroy not only reached second safely on the error but then gamely sprinted like cold molasses down to third, barely beating out the recovered ball. I hear he's still catching his breath. Then Cuddyer hit a sacrifice fly (Oh, my stars--he contributed! I may swoon!) to shallow center, narrowly scoring the hurtling LeCroy.

Fast-forward to the seventh, when the Twins trail 4-2. Hunter walks, LeCroy singles, and Hunter legs it out for the extra base, landing at third. Another sacrifice fly, this time off the bat of Lew Ford, and Hunter scores, narrowing the gap to one.

In the next inning, with time running out, Punto singled and promptly stole second. He advanced to third on a wild pitch, despite the batter (Joe Mauer) frantically signalling him to stay at second, because as wild pitches go it wasn't all that impressive, but Nick Punto can get to the next base faster than my cat can get to her food bowl after I come home two hours late, so it all came out fine in the end. Then Mauer hit a sacrifice fly, and Punto came home. Tie game.

Let's compare:
Baltimore has four runs on a single and three homers.
The Twins have four runs on two errors, a sac bunt, three singles, two walks, three sac flies, a stolen base and a wild pitch.

They went into extra innings knotted at four, and that's when they remembered that they had a day game the next day and should probably get some sleep. Jones and Stewart opened up the tenth with back-to-back homers and that, as they say, was that.

What a great game. It had everything--sacrifices, weird plays, fundamentals both executed and flubbed, good pitching, great pitching, shaky pitching, hustle, and a sprinkle of extra-inning power on top, for zest.

"Twins baseball" at its best, folks--bon appetit!

2 rejoinders:

frightwig sounded off...

The homers in the 10th were great, but Punto's circuit around the bases in the 8th was my favorite sequence of the game. Between that and the catch he made deep into the RF foul ground, I don't know how Dick & Bert couldn't have picked him as the player of the game.

frightwig sounded off...

Oh, not to mention the handstand! I almost forgot, but that was awesome too.