Sunday, April 16, 2006

Comeback Kids

The Twins' offense has shown tremendous resiliency in each of their wins this year, consistently falling behind early and hitting their way back into the lead. Last night's comeback was much more dramatic. Down 5-4 going into the bottom of the ninth against arguably the greatest closer in baseball history, things looked pretty grim. Instead of laying down and taking the loss, the Twins pieced together an incredible rally to capture their fifth straight victory.

Against Yankees' closer Mariano Rivera, Luis Castillo reached on an infield single to start the ninth. Joe Mauer followed this with a great at-bat and ended up knocking the ball down down the left field line, advancing to second on the unsuccessful throw to get Castillo at third. This put runners on second and third with no outs. Rondell White and Torii Hunter both went down on ugly strikeouts. This brought Justin Morneau up with two outs. Morneau laced Rivera's first pitch into right field for a game-winning 2-run single.

It was invigorating to see the Morneau come through with such a huge hit, capping off a 2-hit, 3 RBI night for him. Castillo had 4 hits, including a triple -- he has been fantastic. The great thing about Castillo is that he puts the ball in play, and when you put the ball in play anything can happen. He had one at-bat earlier in the game with the bases loaded where he drilled the ball into the ground and it ended up probably 5 feet away from home plate, but a run scored and Castillo safely reached first.

Unfortunately, the great victory was marred by a couple of really ugly performances that nearly lost the game for the Twins. The most disconcerting was that of White. I was a huge defender of his signing during the offseason, and I have stuck with him through his slow start this season, continually assuring myself that it's only a matter of time before he breaks out of his slump. However, my patience with White is giving way to frustration. He had another absolutely terrible night. He did have a base hit to right field in the 3rd, but outside of that he went hitless with two strikeouts, including a crucial one with no outs and runners on second and third in the bottom of the ninth. Opposing teams are starting to use White's ineptitude in the cleanup spot against the Twins. Last night, the Yankees intentionally walked Mauer with two outs and a runner in scoring position on two occasions, and both times they easily dispatched White to escape the inning unharmed. He left seven runners aboard tonight and killed a couple rallies. This has got to stop.

Jesse Crain had a terrible night as well. Johan Santana had worked through the first six innings having only allowed two runs to the potent Yankees lineup, but he ran into trouble in the seventh. With one out and runners on second and third and the Twins up 4-2, Ron Gardenhire went to Jesse Crain. Crain promptly allowed three straight hits, resulting in three runs and a 5-4 Yankees lead. Hopefully Gardenhire learned his lesson and will not use Crain in high-leverage situations in the future, as he has been just awful this year. Fortunately, the amazing Francisco Liriano came in and pitched 1 and 2/3 innings, allowing no hits.

Crain and White's struggles aside, this was a great ballgame and another extremely impressive victory. The Twins go into today's game against the Yankees with a chance to pick up their sixth straight victory and second straight sweep against an outstanding ballclub. Even if the Twins lose, they will come out of this 12-game stretch against the Blue Jays, Indians, Yankees and Athletics with a .500 record. I don't think anyone can complain too much about that, particularly after the team's slow start.