Ever since it became clear that the Twins were not going to be able to make the post-season this year, I stopped caring too much whether they win. As long as they stayed above .500, it didn't really bother me if they lost; I was more interested in seeing the young group that will be the core of next year's team take their lumps at the big-league level. However, there are certain instances in which I still very much want the team to win. Those are in games against the hated White Sox, so we can help keep them out of the playoffs as the surging Indians charge from behind them; and in games started by Johan Santana, because as I detailed in a post a few days ago, he still has a very legitimate shot at capturing his second straight Cy Young award if he can get wins in his last couple starts.
While the Twins helped to spoil the White Sox chances at making the post-season tonight with a 4-1 victory, their offense still managed to spoil the chances for a win for Santana, who was certainly deserving. Johan pitched 8 innings of one-run ball, allowing only a solo home run to Joe Crede, but the Twins could only produce a solo shot from Jacque Jones in that same span. In the top of the 9th, Lew Ford and Jason Bartlett drew consecutive walks to lead off the inning, putting two on with no outs as Joe Mauer stepped to the plate. In this situation, it should be a given that at least one run will score, which would give the Twins the lead for Joe Nathan and probably allow Santana to collect win #15. But not this offense, oh no. Mauer did his part, driving a hard hit to right field that was caught but allowed Ford to move up to third. This put a runner on third with one out (a situation which has made Twins fans cringe all year) for Matthew LeCroy. LeCroy continues to prove why he will never be a productive full-time player. He has occasional power, but he is a bad fielder, a slow base-runner, and above all he CAN NOT EXECUTE. In a situation where all he had to do was hit a hard grounder up the middle or a medium deep pop fly with the speedy Ford on third, LeCroy fell behind in the count and hit a weak pop-up to very shallow center field, leaving Ford no chance to even think about tagging up. This would allow Chicago to go to their lefty reliever Neal Cotts, who easily dispatched Jacque Jones (.197 against lefties this year) to end the inning. Thanks, LeCroy.
Regardless, the Twins would post 3 runs in the 11th, allowing Nathan to come in and slam the door for his 39th save. Santana lowered his ERA to 2.98, but remains stuck at 14 wins, which almost surely will not cut it.
The victory, along with a 10-6 Cleveland win in Kansas City, brings the Indians within a game and a half of the White Sox. Looks like another hilarious meltdown for the Wimp Sox.