Well folks, that right there is what it’s all about. In the first half of today’s key doubleheader, the Twins and Tigers battled in an entertaining, riveting, nerve-racking 10-inning baseball game that the Twins ultimately found a way to win 3-2, moving them within a game of first place in the AL Central.
Ron Gardenhire called it “the most important game of the year,” and he treated as such, pulling out all the managerial stops to try and squeak runs across the board and push past a tough Tigers squad. From the sacrifice bunts to the pinch runners to the (failed) suicide squeeze play, Gardenhire was clearly putting all his chips on the table. And while some of his tactical decisions were a bit questionable, ultimately his team came through with a huge victory in the series opener.
That victory was made possible, of course, by an incredibly gutsy outing from starting pitcher Nick Blackburn. Call him gritty, call him lucky, call him what you want… the fact is that Blackburn got it done today. He clearly didn’t have his best stuff early on, as he gave up several hits over a first few innings where he uncharacteristically struggled to consistently throw the ball in the zone, but he found his way out of trouble and eventually settled in, finishing the day with seven innings of one-run ball. Coupled with his brilliant outing in No. 163 last year, this stellar road effort will have Blackburn approaching hero status here in the Twin Cities.
The Twins now have an opportunity to put some serious pressure on the Tigers by winning tonight's game. With a disadvantageous pitching match-up, Joe Mauer likely unable to catch [edit: Mauer apparently IS catching Game 2] and Joe Nathan likely unavailable to pitch, that will be no easy task. But at this point, I can't put anything past this club.