Johan Santana's string of wins at the Metrodome was bound to come to an end sometime. It's just a little disappointing that it ended up happening against the Devil Rays.
Santana had posted an amazing 17-0 record in his last 24 home starts prior to last night, and the Twins never lost one of those games -- a span that stretched back to August 1, 2005. Last night the streak finally came to an end, as Santana allowed four runs on six hits over seven innings and was out-dueled by Rays ace Scott Kazmir in a 4-2 loss.
It certainly wasn't a terrible outing for Santana, who struck out 10 and walked only one. He was screwed over by some horrible defense in left field by Josh Rabe which led to an inside-the-park homer for Carl Crawford and increased Tampa Bay's lead to 4-1 in the sixth. Crawford hit a line drive into left field, and Rabe totally mis-judged it, reaching down for it feebly and letting it roll past him to the wall. Crawford's speed allowed him to round the bases with relative ease while Rabe chased after the ball. The fact that a play like that can count as an earned run and a home run allowed against a pitcher strikes me as incredibly stupid; it should have been a single and a three-base error on Rabe.
Meanwhile, the Twins' offense was once again painfully inept. The only runs came on an RBI single from Luis Rodriguez (who mysteriously got the start at DH against the lefty Kazmir despite the fact that the switch-hitting Elrod has a career .241/.328/.278 hitting line against southpaws) and a solo homer from Justin Morneau. I can take some comfort in the fact that the Twins' hitters were at least struggling against a pretty good pitcher last night, but the continued futility of the top and bottom parts of the lineup is highly frustrating. Ubelmann posted a stat on SBG's site yesterday indicating that while Joe Mauer, Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Torii Hunter have combined to hit .300/.357/.520 so far this season, the rest of the lineup has delivered a paltry .203/.267/.238 line. This means that on a night like last night, where Mauer, Cuddyer and Hunter combined to go 1-for-12 with five strikeouts, the Twins' lineup isn't going to be capable of producing many runs. And they didn't.
Tonight, Sidney Ponson will have a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of many Twins fans, as he gets his second turn following a complete shellacking by the Yankees last Monday. If the Twins' offense can't start to get on track over the next couple games against the youngster Edwin Jackson and the punching-bag Jae Seo, you can expect to see me back in ranting form come Monday morning.