09 October 2009
3,208 and counting. That's the number of seismographs that have registered Joe Nathan's implosion in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night against the New York Yankees.
Just days removed from one of the greatest victories in team history, the Twins lost perhaps the most frustrating game this side of 2002.
There are plenty of scapegoats ready for the very public dressing-down they are sure to receive from many Twins' fans, but none more so than All-Star closer Joe Nathan. Minnesota entered the bottom of the ninth inning three outs away from tying the series. It's not that difficult to retire three batters before surrendering a run -- as 73 percent of all innings have no runs scored, according to Baseball Prospectus -- but against the heart of the New York order it is another matter entirely.
That said, there is still no excuse for allowing a single to Mark Teixeira and a home run to Alex Rodriguez to tie the game. Fangraphs lists Nathan's WPA as -.458, which is extremely high yet doesn't quite seem high enough.
Of course, there are other blame-able parties in this extremely frustrating game. 17 runners left on base may be humorous in high-school junior varsity, but in a major league baseball game, it is purely unacceptable.
The most telling instance of this ineptitude with runners on base came in the most crucial situation: the top of the eleventh. Minnesota had managed to load the bases with no outs. Unfortunately, Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez were due up. All that was needed was a well-placed ground ball. Or a walk. Even a deep fly ball would have scored the go-ahead run.
But, obviously, this was too difficult for the Twins. Young lined out on the first pitch from David Robertson, and good baserunning prevented the double play. Gomez, not to be out-done, also swung mightily at the first pitch, grounding directly to first base, resulting in a force out at home.
The night's "hero" -- Brendan Harris -- flied out to center to end the threat. As everyone on this hemisphere foresaw, the Yankees hit a walk-off home run the next half-inning to permanently dampen all hopes of a Game 2 victory.
That's really all I have to say about this game. I won't even mention the Gomez base-running blunder or the infuriating missed call by left-field umpire Phil Cuzzi. After all, I can only take so much heart-break in one night.
Another much-needed off day will come tomorrow, then the series will move to the Metrodome. Another loss and the Twins will be eliminated, but with every win our postseason lives are extended.
In the words of Michael Cuddyer, "The guys have to remember what it was like last weekend when we were in the exact same no lose situation." Call me a homer, but anything is still possible, Twins' fans!
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