Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Great Victory, Looming Mistakes

Jacque Jones and Shannon Stewart hit back-to-back homers tonight to pull out a 6-4 win against the Baltimore Orioles in ten innings. But that was only one part of an evening with many positives and only one standout negative. Let's get the negative out of the way, shall we?

Ron Gardenhire's managing in the 9th was unexcusable. When facing a tough righty in Todd Williams, who throws with a three-quarters delivery that makes the ball very difficult to track for right-handed hitters, and with Lew Ford in scoring position as the go-ahead run, Gardy didn't pinch hit for Michael Cuddyer with two outs. He had Terry Tiffee, a defensive player of equal caliber who plays the same position and a guy who would give a look as a left-handed hitter, giving him a much better probability of reaching against Williams, but allowed Cuddyer to stay in and ground out weakly to second. Why? Why call Tiffee up if you are going let his talent waste away on the bench? Come on, Gardy, use your bench with some intelligence. He also had Jones on the bench, another lefty who he could've brought in against Williams, but inexplicably felt Jones would be a better choice the next inning with no one on rather than with the go-ahead run on second. Of course, that seemed to work out for him. However, let's not ignore all the positives tonight.

There was, of course, the back-to-back homers. But don't forget the other great outcomes of tonight, besides beating the AL East leading Orioles.

* Joe Nathan struck out two and pitch a good, quick 10th inning to get his 10th save of the year. He still has not allowed an earned run

* The Twins had three sacrifice flies tonight. Although this seems like a minor stat, the Twins have not been so good at driving in runs this year. I see this is a quite positive trend.

* Last, but not least, Nick Punto is likely the reason the Twins won the game. His amazing base-running in the 8th inning, going from 1st to 3rd with a couple of heads-up stolen bases, manufactured the tying run, as Joe Mauer drove him in (on a sac-fly, no less). Punto deserves a lot of credit for the effort he's giving since getting the starting spot. His defense has always been there, and now he is doing some very good things offensively.