Tonight the Twins showed some resilience and picked up an important comeback victory, winning a game against Tampa Bay that was perhaps a little harder than it needed to be.
Johan Santana got the start, and his performance was once again concerning. He didn't give up big runs like he has in his last couple starts, but he allowed too many baserunners and had to throw way too many pitches, forcing him to come out after 6 innings despite only having allowed 2 runs. He struck out 9, allowed 8 hits, and walked 2. Santana, who usually possesses excellent command, has walked 10 batters in his past 10 starts. I can't tell if it's because his pitches are missing the strike zone more or if it's because batters just aren't swinging at them often. He always has been a guy who has been able to get hitters to swing at balls out of the strike zone... are guys just laying off more?
Either way, when Santana came out who was in position to get the win with a 3-2 lead. It wouldn't hold up for long, as the All-Star caliber Jesse Crain came in, hit a batter, and then allowed a 2-run homer that gave the Rays a 4-3 lead. It looked like it might be another tough loss for the Twins until the 8th inning when they loaded the bases with 1 out. Torii Hunter would walk in a run, and then Jacque Jones would come through and lace a huge 3-run triple down the right-field line. Joe Nathan came in and pitched an efficient 9th for his 21st save.
*Crain picked up the win, pitching 2 innings and throwing well outside of the Jorge Cantu home run. His record on the year is now 8-0. This high total makes me wonder about something... how many times in baseball history has a reliever won 20 games in a season. Has it ever happened? If anyone wants to look that stat up, please comment.
*It was another great game for Mr. Hunter. He initally put the Twins on the board in the first with a 2-run double, and then his aggressive baserunning produced the third run as he stole third and an overthrow by the catcher allowed him to take home. Hunter, with a .269/.343/.495 line to go along with 51 RBI and 19 stolen bases, will make a strong run at one of the backup outfielder spots on the AL All-Star roster, especially with his great defense.
*Dewon Brazelton has got to be one of the most pathetic pitchers I have ever seen. What a disaster this former 1st round pick has been for the Rays. He's got decent stuff but absolutely NO control, even for a young guy. I joked about his high walk total of 30 in 44 innings when he came into the game (apparently he's a reliever now, I hadn't realized he was taken out of the rotation), and tonight he walked FIVE batters in 1.1 innings! Now, granted, 2 of those were intentional, but still.
*Does Nathan have a good chance at a second consecutive All-Star selection? His ERA is high at 3.78, but his peripheral stats are very good. 21 saves, 11.07 K/9, .220 BAA. We'll look more in-depth at All-Star issues on Monday.
It was a good victory for the Twins tonight, and with the White Sox loss they were able to take a small bite out of their massive deficit. It'd sure be nice if they could repeat that tomorrow.