April 26, 2005

Tigers 6, Twins 4

I had class yesterday afternoon, so I "watched" the Twins-Tigers game in the journalism school's computer lab, via MLB.com's "Gameday" game tracker. It is an unbelievably tortuous way to track a game in general, but it was made especially painful by the fact that the Twins came back from an early deficit, took the lead, and then blew the game in the late innings. That is a difficult series of events for a bunch of graphics on a computer screen to convey.

MLB.com's play-by-play is as good and as fast as anyone's, but it is still infuriating at times. For instance, when the Twins were clinging to a 4-3 lead with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh inning and Juan Rincon gave up a game-tying single to Craig Monroe, all I saw on the screen for about a minute was "run-scoring play." I didn't know if that meant one run, two runs, three runs, or four runs, and I didn't know if it meant Monroe hit a grand slam or bounced into a fielder's choice that scored a run while using up an out.

And trying to decipher exactly what happened in the bottom of the eighth inning, when Joe Mauer's throw to third base sailed into left field and Nook Logan took third and then came around to score ... well, let's just say I was staring at the screen like it was one of those weird 3-D puzzles where you start to see things if you focus on them for a long time. I kept focusing on the play-by-play screen, hoping I would see Detroit's runs come off the board. Sadly, they didn't.

Yesterday's game was one of those early season matchups that was played in front of about a dozen people and will be quickly forgotten, but losing it really hurts. It is the sort of game a division-winning team simply should win, especially when they are looking up in the standings at a very hot White Sox team at the moment. But once again, the Twins' offense simply couldn't come through in crucial situations, where one hit would have meant the difference between losing and winning.

- In the second inning, Jacque Jones doubled with one out, but Lew Ford and Michael Cuddyer stranded him there when they couldn't get a hit with a runner in scoring position.

- With a run already in, the Twins had runners on first and second with no outs in the third inning, but got just two ground outs and a run-scoring sacrifice fly from their 3-4-5 hitters, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Torii Hunter.

- After a Mauer single and back-to-back walks by Hunter and Jones, the Twins had the bases loaded with one out in the sixth inning, but Ford and Cuddyer couldn't get the ball out of the infield.

As has been the case seemingly all season, the Twins were just one or two hits in key spots away from busting a game open. Instead, they let the other team hang around and ended up going 0-for-Detroit in a very depressing four-day stay in the Motor City.

The Twins now lead the AL with 26 at-bats with the bases loaded and have scored just 10 runs (.385 runs per at-bat) while hitting a despicable .154/.138/.154. For some context, the rest of the AL combined has 199 at-bats with the bases loaded and has scored 202 runs (1.02 runs per at-bat). So if the Twins had simply been average in those spots thus far, they would have scored about 16 more runs than they have. And that's not even fully accounting for all the double plays in those spots.

The Twins' bases-loaded ineptitude so far has potentially been the difference between 10 wins and 13-14 wins. And considering how many of those botched bases-loaded opportunities came in the two-game series against the White Sox, that's probably the difference between running neck and neck with a red hot Chicago team and being five games back.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- A History of the LOOGY: Part Two (by Steve Treder)
- Game in Review: Red Sox vs. Devil Rays (by Studes)

Today's Picks (23-13, +$1,105):
Arizona (Ortiz) -100 over Los Angeles (Erickson)
San Francisco (Schmidt) -140 over San Diego (Eaton)
Chicago (Buehrle) +110 over Oakland (Harden)

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