The game that I previewed here, proved to be the best game of the 2009 season, by far. It may have been the best tiebreaker game in Major League history, and that includes a few gems. It was a 12 inning masterpiece where its hard to think of a guy who played poorly. Whenever someone made a bad play, they came back and made a good one seemingly seconds later. In fact, the game was steeped in redemption, and it made for classic baseball.
Miguel Cabrera came in with a bit of a rap sheet, and owed something to the Detroit fans after a raucous weekend that included a lack of pounding baseballs and a surplus of pounding brews. Cabrera hit a Scott Baker pitch roughly 8 miles for a 2-run jack in the 3rd inning to put the Tigers ahead 3-0, and the redemption began…
In the bottom half, Rick Porcello (who pitched his ass off) pulled a boner with two outs on a pickoff play to first. Matt Tolbert scored when the ball got away from Miguel. Porcello pitched around Joe Mauer to load the bases, but came right after Jason Kubel and struck him out, celebrating as he ran off to the dugout. Kubel redeemed himself with one of the longest homers I’ve seen at Hubert H. Humphrey in the 6th.
Ryan Raburn left his feet for a ball that Michael Cuddyer hit his way in the bottom of the 10th. He missed the flair by a wide margin, and Cuddyer got around for a leadoff triple. He would eventually score, but Raburn hosed Alexi Casilla on a sac fly turned double play later in the inning. Alexi’s run would have ended the game. Casilla failed to get back to third base to tag until after Raburn had caught the ball.
But alas, in this game of redemption, Casilla got his chance, too. And he made the most of it by singling in Carlos Gomez on a grounder through the right side in the bottom of the 12th. That hit won the game, and the Twins celebrated along with 55,000 fans.
The Metrodome was alive today. And despite the fact that you could clearly make out the endzones up the first baseline and out in left field, the playing surface looked great. The crew must have worked deep into last night getting this field ready after the Favre-fest, Monday.
It was one of those games where watching on TV was really not enough. The longer it went, the more I wanted to be there. They opened up the Metrodome’s top deck to make more room for fans, and it really changed the complexion of the ballpark, and the game. I am happy to see the stadium go, but I am also happy it lived up to its potential in one of its final games.
In a game where no one played bad, it is usually hard to pick an MVP, but I think Nick Punto was the clear winner in this game. Nick Punto really personified the Twins tonight. There are very few “ballplayers” left in baseball, and this guy showed baseball fans what that term really means.
Punto went one for four. Not so great, but the second baseman saw 32 pitches. Grinding out at bats got Porcello out of the game and got the Twins deeper and deeper into the Tiger’s ‘pen until they pretty much ran out of guys. Punto had a huge at bat in the 7th when he fought off a few pitches and grinded his way to a single. Orlando Cabrera homered two batters later and the Twins took the lead.
In the 9th, Punto led off with another hard battle that led to a walk. The Twins failed to get him around. He came up the 11th with a chance to put the game away and did his job, hitting a ball hard to right that ended up leading to the Raburn-redemption double play at the plate.
Maybe the biggest and most telling play that Punto made on the night came in the top of the 12th with one out, and the bases loaded. In a tie game, Brandon Inge hit a chopper toward the middle, and Punto swooped in and threw out Miguel Cabrera at the plate. It was one of those plays that does not seem big, but if he hesitates at all, they get nobody out. It was a “ballplayer’s” play.
So, Punto and the Twins won this one. They earned the right to celebrate for ten minutes, hop on a flight, and realize they have no pitching against the Yankees at 6 PM tomorrow.
Actually, Ron Gardenhire, by being cautious with his pitchers and matching up against hitters, really preserved his bullpen despite the long game. None of his starters had to relieve, and the longest any of his guys threw in relief was Joe Nathan, going one and two-thirds. Jim Leyland was not as cautious, and the Tigers would be in trouble if they were playing tomorrow. Still, the Twins have a tall order tomorrow in the Bronx.
I hope you got to watch this game, if not, check out the highlights. October baseball is finally here, and you could not have picked a better game to start things off.