The Twins’ resurgence has been a result of several factors, none more vital than improved starting pitching. An early injury to P.J. Walters ended his outing very early and also ended an eight-game streak of Minnesota starters getting through the fifth inning. The bullpen then struggled to keep the ball in the park and the Phillies fended off a late Twins’ rally to even the three-game series with a 9-8 win.
Walters, who had scuffled since his complete game gem on May 22nd, gave up four straight singles to start the ballgame and was pulled due to shoulder stiffness before recording an out---he will undergo an MRI Thursday.
Manager Ron Gardenhire had to exercise his authority to get Walters out of the game. According to Gardenhire, Walters told him he was fine, to which the Twins skipper frankly said, “No, you’re not fine.” The Twins plan on recalling Lester Oliveros from Triple-A on Thursday.
All four of Walters’ baserunners came around to score, the last of them touching home on a three-run jolt with two outs from John Mayberry Jr., his third home run of the year, making it 6-0 before the Twins came to bat. Reliever Jeff Manship, who allowed the home run, conceded more damage in the third-inning on a double to Mayberry Jr. The Philly first-baseman finished with four RBIs.
Manship wasn’t pleased with his performance, especially his relief of Walters in the first inning.
“As a reliever you don’t want to give up anybody else’s runs. That ended up happening today, so I was a little upset with myself.”
One of the game’s coolest moments came in the fourth inning with Jim Thome at the plate. The much beloved ex-Twin, holder of the three (and now four) longest Target Field home runs, hit a colossal, 466-foot blast off Anthony Swarzak that landed over the batter’s eye in center field. As Thome rounded the bases following his 606th career home run, the partisan crowd rose to its feet and gave the 41-year old a standing ovation. The two-run shot was his second of the season and put the Phillies ahead 9-3.
The Twins, on an offensive tear of late, didn’t roll over. They used a steady arsenal of power and small-ball to claw their way back into the game, beginning with a Trevor Plouffe home run in the second-inning. Plouffe’s towering fly to left, his 11th home run, added on to what’s been a torrid month for Plouffe. The Twins third-baseman is now hitting .400 with six HRs in June, and his .944 slugging percentage coming in to the game led the majors this month.
The Twins manufactured two runs in the third-inning on run-scoring ground balls by Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham to pull within 7-3, and tacked on another in the sixth on Willingham’s team-leading 13th home run of the year. But the big rally occurred in the home-half of the seventh.
Down 9-4, the first five batters of the inning reached. Span drove in a run with a double down the left field line to knock out starter Cole Hamels, while Revere and Mauer followed with RBI singles against lefty Antonio Bastardo. The Twins had the tying run on second with nobody out after a wild pitch, but a strikeout of Willingham on a 3-2 delivery killed the momentum. Justin Morneau got a run across with an RBI groundout to pull Minnesota within one, but Ryan Doumit struck out for the third time to end the frame.
The Twins never seriously threatened again. Jamey Carroll was stranded on first in the eighth-inning, and the Twins went down one, two, three in the ninth, only the second time they were retired in order all game. Jonathan Papelbon worked 1.1 innings for his 17th save and the Phillies moved to 29-0 when leading after eight innings. Hamels, giving up six earned-runs through six-plus innings, notched the win to move to 9-3. Walters dropped to 2-2 and has allowed 13 ER over his last three starts, totaling just 9.1 IP.
Despite the 11th one-run loss for his squad this season, Gardenhire was satisfied with his team’s effort on a night when they were put in an early hole.
“There’s no give-up in those guys out there… They left it out on the field and gave it everything they had.”
The Twins try for the series win in Thursday’s rubber-match, pitting Scott Diamond (5-1) against Joe Blanton (5-6).