Before talking about the game and the heroics of Justin Morneau and Carlos Silva, I would like to mention that Torii Hunter has once again made a fool out of himself in public. In an interview on ESPN news following the game, Hunter said that there is "very little chance" of him re-signing and laughed about how the only way to keep him around would be if the Twins paid him what he needs.
Hunter said he wanted to be "politically correct" and not be a "distraction" during the season, but this is not a good way to start things. It is apparent that the Twins likely won't keep Hunter, but that's no reason for him to go off and say such things.
As for the game, a few things obviously stand out. For one, there was an unbelievably awful base-running error by two Devil Rays in the ninth that prevented them from taking the lead, as Ben Zobrist was keep at third on a Carl Crawford smash into the corner. However, Crawford thought he had a triple and run all the way to third. Seeing Crawford coming for the same base, Zobrist started to go home before getting caught in a run-down by Joe Mauer off a Luis Castillo throw. After Mauer tagged Zobrist out, he noticed that Crawford now had inexplicably decided to run back to second as Zobrist went home and Mauer threw Crawford out. It was so crazy that I couldn't stop laughing. But after laughing for minutes, one thing that was clear: the Twins got pretty lucky.
They didn't blow their opportunity and in the bottom of the ninth, when Morneau lead off with the score tied at 2-2. With a Brian Strokes offering right over the outer half of the plate, Morneau went with the pitch and drove a game-winning home run just into the arms of awaiting Twins fans in the Home Run Porch in left field. As huge as Morneau's blast was, it was hard to forget the other hero of the game, Carlos Silva.
Silva lasted 6 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits and no runs while striking out four and walking two. Having given up only the one run in 11 2/3 innings so far, Silva currently boasts a 0.77 ERA. Hard to think that through the first two weeks of the season, Ramon Ortiz and Silva would be boasting the best starter ERAs so far, but they are. And such a pleasant surprise is surely welcome. But, as with Ortiz, it has to be cautioned that Silva certainly isn't going to be better than Santana this year. Still, if he can continue to show a solid change-up and a good sinker, he certainly can have a good year and prove most of the Twins blogosphere (including us) wrong.
The other big hit came from Michael Cuddyer, who hit a two-run blast in the fourth to give the Twins the lead. So far, Cuddyer has looked impressive, hitting .364 with 6 RBI. Likewise, after two hits last night, Jason Kubel is now hitting .333 and may be hitting his stride. Kubel was mentioned as a breakout candidate for this season and it would be a safe bet to say that keeping him in the lineup is a good idea.
As for negatives, I will continue to point out that the "piranhas" are looking pathetic this year, as the two who started, Castillo and Nick Punto, went a combined 0-for-8 last night. So far this year, the piranhas (including Jason Tyner and Jason Bartlett) have gone a combined 17-for-101, or a horrendous .168 average. Horrendous because the name piranha implies that none of these guys have much power to speak of and are basically singles hitters. So, if they aren't hitting near .300, they aren't very useful. I won't rally too much against Castillo, since he will come around, and I think that Bartlett will as well, but Tyner already is a liability and Punto could become one at the plate again.
Lastly, Juan Rincon showed last night that he may not be over his problems that began at the end of last year, as he got knocked around in the eight inning and gave up the two runs Tampa needed to tie the game. Rincon was only saved by Pat Neshek, who came in and got the last two outs on strikeouts. Neshek should be in the set-up role regardless, as at this point he is clearly more dominant than Rincon.
Today, we will look forward to the battle of lefty ace starters between Johan Santana and Scott Kazmir. Should be good fun!