by Mike DePilla
Friday, September 3, 2010
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There's nothing like gaining ground in the standings on off days, and it's especially satisfying when the Twins are forced to use eight pitchers, including their scheduled starter for the next day, in a nearly five-hour marathon only to lose in the 13th inning.
Yes, while the Sox players sat in their Boston hotel rooms (and Manny Ramirez presumably prepared for his long-awaited haircut by Monster99), their AL Central deficit was cut to 3.5 games courtesy of a Gerald Laird 13th inning homerun at Target Field in Minnesota. Laird's homerun came off Nick Blackburn, who was supposed to take the bump tonight against the Rangers.
With the Sox struggling to cobble together a complete pitching staff for the past few weeks, it was good to see the Twins scramble for once. It remains to be seen how this game will affect their rotation and bullpen for the upcoming series vs. Texas, but it's certainly to their disadvantage. The Sox pen, on the other hand, should be getting stronger with the return of Matt Thornton this weekend.
And for those of you still upset at umpire Joe West for screwing the Sox over in Kansas City, he made things even by screwing the Twins last night in Minnesota. West blew not one but two crucial calls at second base that contributed to Tigers runs in the middle to late innings. Then, for good measure, Cowboy Joe ejected Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire in the 7th for arguing. With a competent umpire at second base, the Twins probably win that game in regulation, save their bullpen and maintain their lead on the Sox. So consider things even.
Actually, the Tigers, who fought back from behind valiantly on offense several times, could have ended the game themselves much earlier if they could field ground balls and turn double plays- they had two chances to end the game in the 11th inning but botched both ground balls, allowing the Twins to tie the game again. It was frustrating at the time but look at it this way: it extended the Twins' bullpen another two innings.
The Sox, meanwhile, begin the toughest stretch of their road trip tonight in Boston, weather permitting. (Hurricane Earl may have other plans in store.) John Danks, who has struggled a bit over his last few outings, is scheduled to start against Clay Buccholz, who went 4-0 with a 1.03 ERA in August to earn Pitcher of the Month honors in the American League. Danks has been bitten by the longball recently- he's allowed six homeruns over his last three starts compared to eight total in his previous 23 starts.
Danks is also 1-4 with a 5.08 ERA in his career vs. the Red Sox, so the match up, at least on paper, is in Boston's advantage. But hey, maybe it will get rained out and, before playing a doubleheader tomorrow, the Sox will see another half game comes off that deficit of the weary Twins.
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