Most of the time, Scott Baker's seven shutout innings and a five-run lead would be enough to get a guy a win. Then again, most pitchers don't pitch for the 2011 Minnesota Twins, either.
So, instead of what's becoming an increasingly rare home victory for the Minnesota Twins, the Minnesota bullpen proceeded to blow it. . .again. . .in the final two innings, turning a 5-0 eighth-inning lead into a 6-5 loss.
The Twins got on the board in the bottom of the first when Alexi Casilla, who had been moved up to the second spot in the batting order, followed Denard Span's leadoff walk with a double to left-center field to score Span and give Minnesota a quick 1-0 lead. The Twins added another run in the bottom of the third after Casilla tripled and Jason Kubel brought him in with a single to extend the Twins' lead to 2-0.
Kubel brought home two more Twins' runs in the bottom of the fifth, as his single brought Danny Valencia around to score, with Span right behind him, making the lead 4-0 for Minnesota. Minnesota's final run came in the bottom of the seventh after Casilla collected his third hit of the evening, this one another double, and Justin Morneau brought him in with a single to make the score 5-0 in favor of the Twins heading into the top of the eighth inning.
Then, the Twins brought Alex Burnett into the game in relief of Scott Baker. Baker had thrown 106 pitches, 78 of them for strikes, and Ron Gardenhire figured that a 5-0 lead was safe, even with his shaky bunch of relievers. To put it mildly, he was incorrect.
Ninth-place hitter Peter Bourjos led off the inning by reach on an infield single, and Burnett then walked Macier Izturis to put runners on second and third. At this point, Gardenhire had decided that he had seen enough of Burnett, and brought in just-recalled Dusty Hughes. Hughes celebrated coming into the ball game by giving up a three-run homer to Erick Aybar to cut the Twins' lead to 5-3. Bobby Abreu then singled to center, and Hughes' night was over without him recording an out.
Gardenhire then turned to Jim "Fahrenheit 451" Hoey, and the hit parade continued. Torii Hunter doubled to deep right to put runners on second and third. . .still nobody out, mind you. Alberto Callaspo then reached on an infield single to make it a 5-4 ball game. The Twins then, finally, recorded an out. . .unfortunately, it came on a fly ball off the bat of Russell Branyan that was deep enough to score Hunter from third and tie the game at 5. Hoey then got the next two hitters to ground out, but the damage had long since been done.
The Angels took the lead in the top of the ninth, after Hoey gave up a leadoff triple to Bourjos, and Izturis brought him home with a single. At that point, mercifully, Hoey's night was over as Phil Dumatrait came in to relieve, and retired the three batters he faced in order. The Twins tried to get something going in the bottom of the ninth, as Michael Cuddyer singled with two outs, and Trevor Plouffe reached on an infield single, but Delmon Young flew out to right to end the game.
The single by Cuddyer was the 1,000th of his career, but it meant little, given the circumstances.
Hoey was saddled with the loss for the Twins on this night, dropping his record on the year to 0-2. He also got credit for a blown save, and his ERA on the season is now a robust 10.61. Scott Downs got the win for the Angels to raise his record to 3-1, and Jordan Walden picked up his eleventh save in fourteen opportunities this season.
The same two teams will get together on Saturday night at Target Field, with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 PM. The Angels will hand the ball to right-hander Jered Weaver (6-4, 2.35 ERA). The Twins will counter by handing the ball to the ever-interesting Francisco Liriano (3-5, 5.73 ERA).