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The game was delayed for nearly two hours at the start due to rain. And then it took 12 innings to decide a winner. Fortunately, the Twins have Jim Thome on their side. The burly 40 year old made another magnificent memory in his career, as he launched a solo home run deep into the Cleveland night. The blast gave the Twins a 1-0 win. It was the team’s first run scored in 21 innings. It was his 587th career home run which is now one more than the great Frank Robinson, and Thome is alone in 8th place on the all-time home run list. Making the night even better for the Twins and their fans was that the Kansas City Royals beat the Chicago White Sox 8-2 on the South Side which means that the Twins again have a six-game lead in the AL Central. The Twins are now 84-58, 26 games over .500, and their Magic Number to clinch the AL Central division title was reduced to just 15.
Jim Thome provided the late-inning heroics, but Nick Blackburn put in a yeoman-like effort. The righty worked the first eight innings of the game and did not allow a run. He had to work out of a couple very tough situations, but he found a way to do so. Since his return to the Twins, he has made four starts. He has gone 33.2 innings in those starts. He has given up five runs on 21 hits and seven walks. He has 18 strikeouts in that time. Whatever it was, something mechanical or becoming a father for the first time, Blackburn is pitching great.
Jesse Crain worked two scoreless innings. Randy Flores came in to start the 11th inning. The lefty was asked to get lefties Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner out, and he got neither. Ron Gardenhire went to Matt Guerrier, and the veteran pitched incredibly. The first batter he faced pounded a bunt right at him. Danny Valencia did a nice job reading the ball, retreating to 3B and catching a Guerrier 90 mph fastball from short range in time for the inning’s first out. Valencia then caught a foul ball pop up for the second out. And Guerrier got a ground out to 2B for the third out. When looking for heroes in last night’s game, the incredible work by Matt Guerrier should not be lost.
Then came the Thome blast, giving the team a 1-0 lead. Matt Capps came in and threw a perfect bottom of the 12th inning for the Save and all is well with the world.
Hopefully on Sunday, the Twins bats will find a way to put some early runs on the board versus Mitch Talbot. The 21 inning scoreless streak was not good, and yet if you watched the past two games, it is understandable. The Twins had some decent at bats, but both Fausto Carmona (Friday) and Carlos Carrasco (Saturday) pitched great. They threw strikes and had tremendous movement on their pitches. Sometimes bats go cold. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the pitcher who made them that way.
With the excitement of the day, the Twins win and the White Sox loss, there was a definite need to talk about our favorite team (The Twins, in case you didn’t grasp that from the previous paragraphs). So, there was a Special SethSpeaks.net Minnesota Twins podcast following the game. Travis Aune was my co-host and we talked about all kinds of Twins topics. We discussed the bats, Jim Thome, Nick Blackburn, and Matt Capps. We asked who the Twins #4 starter would be in the playoffs. We discussed what to do in the offseason with JJ Hardy. There was terrific discussion in the chat room. It was a really fun show, even if it was late at night. So, if you have a chance on this first Sunday of the football season, please listen to it here.
Again, it is Kevin Slowey against Mitch Talbot at noon today. I expect Joe Mauer to be completely out of the lineup today, and I think that is a wise decision if Ron Gardenhire makes it. The lead is back up to six. The magic number is down to 15. There is an off day on Monday and the big series in Chicago starting on Tuesday night. Mauer will catch all three of those games. He is vital to the Twins postseason run and giving him a day off now is a luxury that the team does have. Any other thoughts on the Twins, Saturday’s day in the AL Central or what you expect today and going forward? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.