Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Casilla Carries Twins to First Win
“Don’t give up...Don’t ever give up!” Those are not only the words of the great Jim Valvano, but also the words that go through Twins fans thoughts when the Twins are down late. Those words sure came to life last night as the Twins and Mariners squared off in game two of their four game series.
With Erik Bedard and Nick Blackburn on the hill, this was sure to be another very good pitching matchup. Last time Twins fans saw Nick Blackburn in the regular season was when he pitched in the tie-breaking game against Chicago. However, during the off-season he had minor knee surgery and had some swelling late in Spring Training. Some were wondering if he would be on his game tonight.
Nick never quite looked comfortable out there. He pitched five innings, giving up four earned runs off eight hits and only striking out one batter. Blackburn isn’t known as a strikeout pitcher, but more as a groundball pitcher. So the one strikeout is nothing to worry about, but you would still like to see that number higher. The most trouble came in the 4th inning when Endy Chavez, acquired from the Mets in the J.J. Putz trade, singled to right, which brought in Wladimir Balentien and Yuniesky Betancourt to make it 4-0 game.
Here is where that famous line “Don’t give up...Don’t ever give up!” comes into play. Down four heading into the bottom of the 5th, the Twins knew they had to get something going as Blackburn likely wouldn’t make it past the 6th. With runners on 1st and 3rd, Denard Span would hit a single to right, which drove in Carlos Gomez. Two batters later, Michael Cuddyer singled to center which drove in Nick Punto and Denard Span to make it a 4-3 game.
The Twins bullpen would hold the Mariners scoreless until the 9th when Franklin Gutierrez singled to center, which brought Wladimir Balentien home to make it a 5-3 game. Then the fun begins.
Brandon Morrow comes in to try to pick up his first save of the season. Last season, the Mariners blew 31 saves as a team, tied for most in the MLB with St. Louis. So this game was far from over. Morrow would walk three batters to load the bases with no one out, which caused first year manager, Don Wakamatsu, to make a pitching change. In came Miguel Batista to try to get out the jam. The Twins had other ideas.
Denard Span stepped up to the plate for his fifth at bat. He had gone 2-for-4 previous to this at-bat. Span would hit a high chopper in front of the plate to Adrian Beltre, who smartly held onto the baseball. Carlos Gomez would score on the play to pull the Twins within one run of a tie. Alexei Casilla stepped up to the plate looking to be the hero of the game. It took less than 5 seconds for him to be the hero of the night. On the first pitch he hit a liner up the middle to score Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher to win the game for the Twins.
The way the Twins won this game makes them one of, if not, the most exciting team to watch in the Major Leagues. The Twins will try to continue this momentum as they send Kevin Slowey to the mound to face off against former Twin, Carlos Silva.