It was another high-scoring game, this time with more suspense, that thankfully ended with the Twins on top. For a minute there I thought we were headed for another snoozer in which the Rangers of Texas (no relation to Walker, the Texas Ranger) would rack up a giant score against our fragile pitching staff.
Luckily, the Twins clawed back and slowly but surely gained the victory to remain 7 games back of Detroit. Minnesota actually led Texas 3-2 going into the bottom of the 4th, but the Rangers put up a 5-spot in the frame to take a 7-3 lead.
Carl Pavano was only able to go 5 innings, as the veteran the entire team was counting on wasn’t really able to come through with a “bullpen-saving” start. He gave up 9 hits that turned into 8 runs and frankly never really gave the team a chance. If the bullpen wasn’t so depleted, my guess is that Gardy would have pulled Pavano somewhere amidst the 4th inning.
Matt Capps attempted to throw a second inning of relief, but gave up back-to-back singles in the bottom of the 8th and had to be taken out in favor of shutdown lefty Glen Perkins. Perk, of course, mopped the floor with the Rangers and retired the side on 10 pitches, all of which went for strikes.
The real heroics came when the Twins came up to bat in the final frame.With one out and Delmon Young on first base, Jim Thome hit a pinch-hit double that looked like it just might be a homer when it left his bat. And truthfully, Josh Hamilton should have made the catch at the wall but he misread it and the Twins took advantage. Tsuyoshi Nishioka hit a chopper up the middle but it could not be fielded cleanly, allowing Young to score, pinch-runner Jason Repko to reach third base, and Nishi to reach first. Joe Mauer then hit, in the team’s second pinch-hit appearance of the inning, and stroked a nice double to left center that would score Repko as the winning run.
Although closer Joe Nathan allowed two guys to reach base, via a single and a flukey hit-by-pitch, he still got the job done and ended the game with a fantastic strikeout. There’s a new wave of confidence from Nathan and I believe the fans are getting on board, too. It’s nice to be able to trust a pitcher with a 1-run lead in the 9th inning. If, and that’s a very large if, this team makes the playoffs and wants to compete with other playoff-caliber teams, a closer that will still perform at a high level is absolutely necessary. Now, I’m not saying that Nathan can be that guy, especially considering his antics against the Yankees at the Dome in 2009, but we’ve got a lot better chance with him than with Capps.