July 30, 2006

Crazy


I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place
Even your emotions have an echo and so much space

And when you're out there, without care, yeah I was out of touch
But it wasn't because I didn't know enough
I just knew too much

Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Possibly


- Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy"

After two depressing losses to begin the series Friday and Saturday, Johan Santana couldn't throw strikes yesterday afternoon and the Twins were six outs away from being swept by the Tigers for the third time this season. Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman was cruising along, putting up the following Santana-esque pitching line through seven innings:

 IP     H     R     ER     BB     SO     HR     PIT
7.0 1 0 0 1 8 0 86

Not only was Bonderman completely overpowering the Twins' lineup, allowing one measly hit while racking up eight strikeouts, he needed just 86 pitches to record 21 outs. He was about as good as I've seen a pitcher look this season, both in terms of dominance and efficiency, and the hitters simply looked like they had no chance against him.


And then suddenly the wheels came flying off. It's easy to look at the boxscore and determine that Bonderman imploded in the eighth inning, but that's not really the case. It's true that he fell apart, but as odd as this sounds, he continued to pitch well and gave up six runs through almost no fault of his own. Seriously.

With the Twins trailing 3-0, Justin Morneau came to the plate leading off the eighth inning and hit a chopper back up the middle. Bonderman got his glove on it, deflecting it to the right side of second base. Shortstop Carlos Guillen ranged into shallow center field to scoop it up on the run, but made an errant throw to first base that bounced into the dugout and moved Morneau up to second base.

Jason Kubel came off the bench to pinch-hit for Josh Rabe, hacking at the first pitch he saw and hitting a high chopper to first base. Chris Shelton came lumbering in to scoop it up and tag first, but had what can only be described as a Bill Buckner moment as the ball skipped under his glove and rolled half way down the right-field line. Morneau scored from second base, making it 3-1.

Mike Redmond stepped to the plate and also swung at Bonderman's first offering, this time sending a chopper to the other side of the infield. Third baseman Brandon Inge watched helplessly as the ball landed directly on the chalk about a foot behind third base and then made its way into the left-field corner. Brent Clevlen had trouble fielding it cleanly off the wall, allowing Kubel to score all the way from first base despite running like he'd stepped on a nail rounding second.

With the lead cut to one run and Redmond on second base, the Tigers brought the infield in expecting Jason Tyner to bunt. Instead, Tyner fouled off the first pitch he saw and then hit another chopper on the second pitch. This one went over Shelton's outstretched glove and into right field, with Magglio Ordonez picking it up cleanly and firing a strike back into the infield to keep Redmond at third base.

With runners on the corners, Jason Bartlett came to the plate and hit yet another chopper down the third-base line. The ball may have gone foul before getting to the base, but Inge fielded it and tried to tag Redmond, who successfully dove back into third base after thinking briefly about heading home. With the ball called fair, Redmond safe, and Bartlett hustling on the play, Inge had no options left and the Twins had the bases loaded.

And that's when things really got interesting.

After getting ahead of Luis Castillo, Bonderman came set for his 1-2 pitch and took his hand out of his glove, signaling for catcher Vance Wilson to cycle back through the signs again. Bonderman had been doing that quite a bit throughout the game, but this time he forgot to take his foot off the pitching rubber and was called for the game-tying (and surprisingly obvious) balk as the Metrodome exploded.

As Redmond trotted home from third base with Tyner and Bartlett each moving up a base, Bonderman understandably lost it briefly, gesturing wildly and yelling at multiple umpires while his eyes appeared ready to pop out of his head. Two pitches later, after resuming the Castillo at-bat, he exaggeratedly stepped off the mound before making the same hand motion to Wilson.


One pitch after that, with the infield drawn in, Castillo slapped a grounder up the middle that Guillen made a diving stop on before throwing to first base for the first out of the inning. Tyner scored from third on the play, giving the Twins their first lead of the game at 4-3. Nick Punto briefly ended the excitement with a harmless fly out to left field, but things quickly picked up steam again.

With first base open and two outs, the Tigers did like so many teams have done over the past month and intentionally walked Joe Mauer to face Michael Cuddyer. The ninth batter of the inning, Cuddyer poked Bonderman's 1-2 pitch--his 116th of the game and 30th of the inning--into the right-center field gap, slicing through Curtis Granderson and Ordonez and skipping all the way to the wall.

Bartlett scored from second, Mauer scored from first, and Cuddyer ended up on third with a two-run triple that pushed the score to 6-3. With six runs already on the board and Morneau stepping to the plate for the second time in the inning, manager Jim Leyland mercifully lifted Bonderman in favor of left-hander Jamie Walker, who struck Morneau out to end what was without question the strangest, craziest, most bizarre half-inning I've ever seen.

- Infield Single
- Error
- Error
- Double
- Infield Single
- Balk
- Ground Out
- Fly Out
- Intentional Walk
- Triple
- Strikeout

It's impossible to understand how truly ridiculous nearly each thing that took place during the inning was without having seen it first hand, but the fact that the Twins scored six runs while hitting exactly one ball legitimately well is a pretty good indication of Bonderman's misery. They essentially put together a six-run rally on five choppers, a ground ball, an intentional walk, and a two-out triple.


It was only one win and the Twins still lost a series at home, but scraping together an inexplicable come-from-behind victory after seemingly having the game lost is somehow infinitely better than being spanked yet again by the Tigers. Plus, with Chicago coughing up a late-inning lead of their own while losing to Baltimore yesterday, the Twins went from looking like they'd depressingly be three games behind the White Sox just days after sweeping them to being one game back.

Of course, the White Sox may not be the Twins' biggest problem any longer:

WILD CARD       W      L     WIN%      GB
New York 61 41 .598 ---
Chicago 61 42 .592 0.5
Minnesota 60 43 .583 1.5
Toronto 57 48 .543 5.5

That's right, the Twins are now chasing the Yankees for a playoff spot.

And I hope that you are having the time of your life
But think twice
That's my only advice

Come on now, who do you
Who do you, who do you, who do you think you are?
Ha ha ha, bless your soul
You really think you're in control?
Well, I think you're crazy


- Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy"

TRADE DEADLINE UPDATE: The Twins have traded Kyle Lohse to the Reds for Single-A pitching prospect Zach Ward. I'll have a lot more on this (and any other moves the Twins make) tomorrow, but my initial reaction is that Terry Ryan did very well here hooking up with former assistant Wayne Krivsky.

A third-round pick in 2005, Ward is 7-0 with a 2.29 ERA, 95-to-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .188 opponent's batting average in 114 innings at low Single-A. The Twins don't exactly need more young pitching, but Ward is exactly the sort of low-minors prospect Ryan thrives on plucking from other organizations.

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