We've seen it all too often this season. The Twins fell behind early and sputtered their way through inning after inning without pushing a run across. The starter stumbled a bit early, and it looked like it would be his undoing as the Twins' bats snoozed. With his team trailing 4-0 heading into the seventh inning, it looked like Johan Santana was headed toward his 10th loss on the season.
Suddenly, the bats awakened. Justin Morneau broke out of his home run slump with his first dinger in over a month, and Jason Kubel followed up with a two-run homer of his own just a few minutes later. The Twins manufactured two more runs in the eighth, and added two more on a two-run shot from Torii Hunter in the ninth. In total, they scored seven runs on 10 hits (six for extra bases) in the final three innings of the game, taking advantage of a weak and depleted Baltimore bullpen. To quote Diamond Joe Quimby, "that was unexpected."
It was the Twins' second come-from-behind victory in as many days, but this one was much different from Thursday night's sampling. Last night, the Twins' bats were resilient. They came to life and started driving balls all over the place, as opposed to Thursday night where the Orioles basically handed them the game on a silver platter. This one was a victory that was earned. And it was especially sweet that the Twins were able to take the lead in time to get a win for Santana, who was owed a favor or two by this offense.
Coming off perhaps the best outing of his career, Santana wasn't overly sharp last night. He gave up four runs on three homers, but to his credit he hung in there and pitched seven innings, keeping the Twins in the game and leaving the door open for their eventual comeback. He also struck out seven while walking just one. With his 14th win, Santana moves into a tie for third place in the AL in victories. He's not on top of the list of Cy Young contenders at this point, but he's at least keeping his name in the conversation.
Tonight, the Orioles will be starting right-hander Radhames Liz, who will be making his major-league debut. Liz makes the jump directly from Double-A, where he had gone 11-4 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Liz has posted good strikeout rates throughout his minor-league career and was allowing an opponents' batting average of .204 this season. Those are good numbers to be sure, but at 24, he is somewhat old for Double-A, and his control is suspect. If the Twins' hitters show some patience, they should be able to have success against the kid. Meanwhile, it would be nice to see Matt Garza bounce back after getting roughed up in his last outing.
A win could actually be meaningful. As much as the Twins should be out of the playoff race at this point, they're now only 5 1/2 games out of first place after Cleveland's loss in Kansas City last night, and the Twins play the Indians six times in their next 11 games. The Twins are still a real long-shot at this point, but at least they control their own destiny to some extent.