The Twins find a way to lose on Sunday, barring them the chance of entering their new ballpark on a six-game winning streak. Nick Blackburn was in continuous "lets-give-up-the-lead" mode all day long, as he surrendered three home runs to the White Sox. Paul Konerko's two-run shot in the first was at least hit by a guy who you expect to go deep. Blackburn giving up homers to the likes of Mark Kotsay and Gordon Beckham, however, are not. If you want to win, you've got to get guys like Mark Kotsay out every time at bat, and certainly you don't give up home runs against them. But Sunday was not without its share of goats. There's Ron Gardenhire for putting Nick Punto in the starting lineup. Punto's double-play grounder early in the ballgame was crucial, as the Twins were threatening to make it a short day for Mark Buehrle. So predictable was Punto's failure at the plate that it made Brendan Harris' walk in the previous at-bat look genius. But Ron Gardenhire is a goat of every Twins loss; what makes the Twins unique is how often the spread around the love, so to speak, in terms of losing ballgames.
Scott Ullger has to be one of the stupidest men working in the major leagues. That's saying something, because not many members of the Twins management are going to get into Mensa anytime soon. But the game ended so pathetically that Scott Ullger must be chided for his ultimate stupidity in the ninth inning. With J. J. Hardy at first base and two outs, pinch-hitter Jim Thome doubled off the wall in left field. Hardy of course was off with the crack of the bat, but had not quite made it to third base when the ball was relayed to the infield. What does Ullger do? He sends Hardy, and he's thrown out by forty-five feet. I realize that you want to make things happen, Ullger, but my God -- that was absolutely pathetic! It's true that Nick Punto was the on-deck hitter, likely to be replaced by a pinch hitter (though with Ron Gardenhire, you might very well see Punto hitting for himself in that theoretical situation -- or he'd send up Alexi Casilla). Maybe that was what motivated Ullger to make such a stupid decision. And in the post-game interview, it was suggested that perhaps Hardy made the decision to go on his own. Either way, the third-base coach needs to do his job there. Hardy doesn't have eyes in the back of his head, and Ullger has a clear view of the play. Who knows what would have happened if Hardy would have rightfully stayed at third, but at least don't make it look that pathetic.
Now the Twins return home for the first time, and for the first time since 1981, the Twins will be playing outdoors in their home whites. Tomorrow, readers will be treated with co-blogger Hank Rickenbacker, who will have a report from the game. It's the first game that Hank's attended since the old Met, and he'll be able to give us a full report on Target Field as well as the Red Sox-Twins game. Looking forward to it Hank!