In Monday's post, I was a little critical of Michael Cuddyer's lack of discipline at the plate. Yeah, that remains a problem, but man has that guy been an incredible force in the middle of the Twins' lineup since mid-April. Cuddyer hit a two-run homer last night and in the 10th inning had a huge single that put Torii Hunter at third base representing the winning run with one out (Hunter would score on a Justin Morneau sac fly). Cuddyer has a .984 OPS, and it's looking less and less like a fluke with each great game. I've long been exasperated by Cuddy's inability to string together a full solid season, but now it looks like he's well on his way to doing so.
Johan Santana was on the hill for the Twins last night, and, for the first time in seven starts, he wasn't particularly dominant. Santana gave up five runs (four earned) on nine hits over seven innings while striking out five. To his credit, Johan did pull it together and collect a couple huge strikeouts to get out of the seventh inning while Jesse Crain warmed up in the bullpen. Getting those outs and keeping Crain out of the game may have preserved the Twins' chance to win.
The game itself was pretty wild. The Twins went up 4-0 early on a Juan Castro two-run double and the Cuddyer homer. The Indians rallied back with two runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth, putting them ahead by a run. The Twins tied it up again in the bottom half of the sixth with Morneau scoring on a GIDP by Tony Batista. After that, the Twins' lineup went into a state of hibernation. In innings 7-9, the Twins' hitters were 0-for-9 with five strikeouts. The only baserunner during that stretch was Joe Mauer, who walked in the seventh. Fortunately, the Twins' pitching from the seventh inning on was very effective and held the Indians at bay long enough for the offense to rally and win it in the 10th.
One performance that was particularly jaw-dropping was that of Joe Nathan. Nathan pitched the ninth and 10th innings, facing six batters and striking out five of them. With all due respect to Santana, Nathan might be the best pitcher on the Twins. And with his two innings of work last night, he's still thrown one less on the year than Willie Eyre. Brilliant bullpen management, Mr. Gardenhire.
* On another note, Matt Garza made his second start at Double-A New Britain yesterday. His line? 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 9 K. This kid is for real.