It's very rare that I ever feel much empathy for a team that the Twins beat. But last night, as I watched Craig Monroe's pinch-hit three-run homer sail over the fence, capping a five-run ninth-inning comeback for the Twins, my heart ached for the Royals a bit. This isn't to say I wasn't ecstatic about the amazing comeback I had just witnessed from my team -- I was. But man, that is hard for the Royals. Already riding a nine-game losing streak, they get a great start from Zack Greinke, finally get a few big hits from their anemic offense, and come within one strike of a five-run victory. Then, it all fell apart.
With the Twins trailing 8-3 with two outs in the ninth, Mike Lamb ripped an RBI single to left field to score Jason Kubel. Then Brendan Harris kept the inning going with a single of his own. Carlos Gomez came up and bounced a seeing-eye single into center field, scoring Lamb. This brought Monroe to the plate representing the tying run. It was one of those moments where a fan thinks to himself/herself, "It'd be so awesome if he hit a home run right here... but what are the chances of THAT happening." Amazingly enough, it did happen. Monroe pieced together a solid at-bat and ended it by lining a low fastball over the left-field fence. One inning later, Justin Morneau ripped a solo shot to right, which proved to be the game-winner once Joe Nathan slammed the door for his 14th save. It was perhaps the most improbable comeback I have ever personally witnessed.
Obviously, it ended up being nice to have Monroe available as a pinch-hitter last night, but I'm still totally confounded that he wasn't in the starting lineup to begin with. By almost any measure, he was a smarter play than Delmon Young in left field. Young was on a terrible cold streak, having gone 2-for-22 (.091) over his last six games and coming off a night in which he went 0-for-6 and misplayed a double into a game-tying inside-the-park homer. Beyond that, he was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts lifetime against Royals starter Greinke, whereas Monroe was .389/.400/.889 with two homers in 20 plate appearances. I don't put a whole lot of stock into past performances against pitchers, especially with sample sizes like those, but I know Gardy does... or at least he claims to. There was just no reason to start Young last night other than to extend a superficial streak. Young walked twice in the game, but went 0-for-3 and committed a pair of costly errors in the fourth inning. He really seems to be in a bad place mentally right now, and I have to believe that a day off would be beneficial. How much longer can Gardenhire continue to pencil him in every night?
One other item. For those who were complaining about Gardenhire's decision to pull Nathan out of Tuesday night's game after just 10 pitches while Royals closer Joakin Soria pitched two full innings, last night's game should serve as a great vindicator for Gardy. Soria was unavailable to stop the bleeding as the Royals bullpen blew a huge lead in the ninth, while Nathan was able to come in and protect the Twins' one-run lead in the tenth. Just something to think about.