The winning ways continue in Chicago, as Jason Kubel bails out the rest of the lineup by smashing a two-run home run for the lone Twins scores of the game, and Scott Baker pitches well enough to pick up his first victory of the season. For the majority of seven innings, the Twins were handcuffed by White Sox retread fifth-starter Freddy Garcia, who has been reduced from the sometimes-dominant pitcher he once was for the Mariners and Chisox to a slop-throwing Quadruple-A pitcher who probably would be a better fit with his neighborhood beer-league softball team. Instead, the Twins looked baffled by Garcia, which is truly pitiful, but not as pitiful as the White Sox lineup, which appears to have lost nearly all of its potency that it had for years. But Kubel did the job, and the bullpen preserved the lead, including Jon Rauch, who picked up his fourth save of the season with relative ease.
Ron Gardenhire cannot escape the long arm of the MTRC, however, for his mismanagement in the top of the eighth inning. The Twins had the bases loaded and nobody out and Michael Cuddyer at the plate. Ozzie Guillen brought in reliever Scott Linebrink to pitch to Cuddyer, who predictably didn't get the job done. Cuddyer's one of the most un-clutch hitters around, and whenever there are runners in scoring position, Cuddyer seemingly always either pops up or strikes out. Cuddyer's patheticness cannot be attributed to Gardenhire. But the next at-bat absolutely must. Gardenhire let Alexi Casilla hit. Casilla, who had entered the game for basepaths-clogging Jim Thome an inning before, remained in the game as the DH and hit for himself. WHY? We're not quite sure why any person -- it doesn't even care how much they know about the game of baseball -- would let a guy like Alexi Casilla hit in that situation. What Gardenhire would probably tell you is that they didn't have any left-handed hitting options to face Linebrink, so Casilla was the best matchup for the situation. This, of course, is a self-defeating prophecy, as Casilla is as much a left-handed batter to be taken seriously as I am the star of the next Real World. You might as well put a lamp shade in the batter's box when Casilla's turn in the order is up. Of course, Casilla struck out, and the Twins failed to score after loading the bases with no outs. In a different game, when you're actually facing a quality opponent, that kind of managerial blunder costs you games. And when you're in a tight division that has necessitated the playing of a 163rd game the last two seasons, one game makes the difference. Because Gardy got off the hook with this move, expect it to happen again -- and expect it to backfire big time.
Like most successful seasons, the Twins are winning in spite of Ron Gardenhire's best efforts to lose the game. We'll see if the Twins can complete the sweep on Sunday, with Nick Blackburn facing Twins nemesis Mark Buehrle.
Photos: (1) AP/Paul Beaty; (2) AP/Jim Mone