Miracle Twins Tame the Tigers
I have to show some love to the new American League Central Champs, the Minnesota Twins, who last night gave all of us another great extended 9163 game) season. And even though they did the same in 2008, this time they came out on winning end of the contest. Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire and his crew did everything possible to take that final step into the 2009 playoffs by defeating the Detroit Tigers in a game that proved that being tenacious and clawing for the jugular can pay off big time in a game. The Tigers and the Twins went back and forth in this contest until Twins centerfielder Carlos Gomez led off the bottom of the 12th inning with a single.
And you know what they say about lead-off runners in a late inning baseball game, they always seem to come back and bite you in the end. Well, last night it took a little bit until Alexi Castilla hit an RBI single to finally send the Tigers back to their lair for a long Winters nap. I have to admit, that was the first time I have ever seen ex-Ray Delmon Young show such pure emotional joy since he found out he was traded out of Tampa Bay. Seriously tho, it is fantastic that the Metrodome will get to host at least a few more baseball games before it finally bows out as the Twins baseball home.
With 187 days until the Opening Day at the new Target Park, the New York Yankees might just be the last opposing team to ever come in and try to put a few balls deep into the baggies in rightfield. But the Yankees might want to be wary of these Twinkies. Sure, like their confectionary cousins, for most of the season they seems rough on the outside and soft in the middle, but they regrouped and pulled off a major coup by even getting to a point to force a one-game free-for-all with the Tigers.
The good news is that the Twins will have at least three more games to their 2009 season. The bad news is they first have to start their journey in the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium on the road starting tomorrow night with Yankee 19-game winner CC Sabathia on the hill. But considering the steep and rugged mountain they scaled in the last 14 days, this next obstacle might seem like an anthill to the Twins.
The minor fact that less than 14 days ago they were not even being mentioned or ever considered for the 2009 postseason, and now they have secured another American League Central title and a chance to compete as another great Cinderella story in 2009. I did not give the Twins enough credit to come out and take the game to the Tigers. I did not expect them to lay down or even give up, but I thought that American League Rookie of the Year candidate, Rick Porcello, who was starting on the mound for the Tigers might have the keys to the playoff bus in this match up.
The way Tiger slugger Miguel Cabrera started off in this game by crushing an 0-2 pitch by Twins starter Scott Baker, it definitely looked like a long, long night for the Twins. But being the pesky and persistent team they are, the Twins saw Matt Tolbert scamper home on a throwing error by Porcello to give the Twins their first run of the night. From there Baker held the Detroit team at bay until the Twins finally began to counter and put another run on the board on a Jason Kubel homer to right-centerfield.
Now the Twins had snuck back into this contest 3-2, and the Twins Bullpen was about to began their long night. With both teams into their respective Bullpens now, the game was about to grind down a bit as the two teams used strategies and match-ups. Gardenhire actually used three different Twins relievers in a span of 13 pitches to get out of the seventh inning with no damage.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Twins shortstop Orlando Cabrerra hit a 2-run shot to leftfield off Tiger reliever Zack Miner that scored Nick Punto and moved the Twins in front for the first time in the game. The Tigers countrered the Twins by also using three relievers in the inning to finally shut down the Twins, who now had a 4-3 lead going into the eighth inning. But that lead did not last long as Magglio Ordonez took the second pitch he saw from reliever Matt Guerrier and deposited it into the leftfield seats to tie the game again.
In the next two innings, both teams used their reliable closers to try and put a clamp on this game and set up a potential one-run victory for either team. Twins closer Joe Nathan came in first and faced ten hitters before giving way to reliever Jesse Cain in the top of the tenth inning. The Tiger went to their closer, Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning, and it was now a battle to see which team blinked first. And it was the Twins who blinked first when Crain hit Detroit pinch hitter Aubrey Huff with a pitch, and he was quickly replaced by pinch runner Don Kelly.
Crain seemed to have gained back some momentum when he struck out Ryan Rayburn for the second out of the inning. But Brandon Inge took his third pitch and hit an RBI-double to deep left to put the Tigers up by one run. But the Twins counter in their half of the inning when after Michael Cuddyer tripled to deep leftfield to lead-off the bottom of the tenth inning.
Now with the tying run just 60 feet from home, the Twins Delmon Young hit a grounder to short for an easy out, then Brendan Harris walked on 5-pitches to put men on the corners for the Twins with one out. Then that Tolbert, who scored earlier for Minnesota on a pitching error came through with an RBI-single to center to knot the score at 5-all. Gardenhire then used three different reliever to get his club out of the eleventh inning without incident. But the calculated manuveurs did not help his club as they went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eleventh inning.
Twins reliever Bobby Keppel came back out to the hill for the 12th inning, and got in a bit of a jam when he walked Cabrera, then gave up a single to Kelly to centerfield. With two men in scoring position,and with first base open, Gardenhire then intentionally walked Rayburn and load the bases up for Inge. The plan worked perfectly as Inge hit into a fielder’s choice and Cabrera was tagged out at home, which put two outs on the board. Gerald Laird then struck out swinging to end theTigers chance.
In the bottom of the 12th, Rodney again took the hill for the Tigers and gave up the lead-off single to Gomez. In all, the inning saw a total of 12-total pitches before Castilla stepped on Home Plate and the parties erupted all over Minnesota. You can bet there will be some tired souls on that plane, but the fatigue will not bother them as they will be riding an emotional high going into Game 1 of the ALDS.
And that can be either a cruel or energy pumping animal to tame right no
w for the Twins. The Yankees have been off since their season ending win in St. Petersburg on Sunday, while the Twins have been grinding it out and are still in the competitve mindset having just concluded an incredible game. It will be exciting to see which end of the spectrum comes out in play of the Twins players’ tommorrow night. Adrenaline can be a great equalizer if it is used to their advantage.
From the emotional high of an extra inning victory still pumping through their veins, they run the risk of coming out too hyper, and then they could mishandle important at bats and get behind early. And if they come out stone cold, they could be in for a long night in the Bronx before finally getting a chance to sleep. I am actually looking forward to this first game because I am dying to see which Twins team shows up, and if they are motivated and still energized from the previous night….Sabathia might be the one in for a long, long night. But whatever happens in the next few weeks, the story and the determination of this Twins team can not be denied right now. Count on it!