Cuddyer's big day paces Twins' sweep
Right fielder's pair of hits, walks, nice grabs buoy Perkins
MINNEAPOLIS -- Michael Cuddyer hit, walked, jumped and powered the Twins to a 9-3 victory over the Nationals on Thursday at the Metrodome, completing a three-game sweep against last-place Washington.It was needed. Minnesota started a recent road trip by losing six of seven to American League Central rivals Chicago and Cleveland before regaining its footing by taking five of six from National League squads Milwaukee and Washington.
Cuddyer was 2-for-2 with a pair of walks, a triple, two RBIs and two runs scored. But equal contribution came on defense, where he was of great aid to starter Glen Perkins. From Cuddyer's post in right field, he made two leaping catches of long flies, once in the fifth off the bat of Dmitri Young with two runners on, and again in the sixth on a Wily Mo Pena rocket."Cuddy picked me up big out there, jumping all over the place, catching balls," Perkins said. "It's not fun to watch, because it was me pitching and hoping that he'd catch it, but it was good to see." Cuddyer jokingly attributed the flashy plays to a lack of athleticism. "I think it's just because I am so slow that I have to jump to make up for it, but it makes it look pretty good," Cuddyer said. "I take a lot of pride in the defense. You go out there and you try to do the best you can, and, fortunately, today I was able to make some good catches." The sweep allowed the Twins to climb back over .500 on the year (37-36). "It's all about us winning at home," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, acknowledging the difficult road trip. "When a team comes in here, it doesn't matter who they are. You have to win at home." The Twins drew first blood on Nationals starter Shawn Hill in the second inning. After a leadoff walk to Cuddyer, Jason Kubel whacked a drive that bounced off the baggie in right field, just barely in fair territory. Nationals right fielder Elijah Dukes got crossed up trying to field the ball off the wall and tripped as it rolled back towards the infield. By the time he gathered the ball and relayed it in, Kubel was on third with a triple. Brian Buscher singled Kubel in two batters later when he dumped a bloop over former Twins shortstop Cristian Guzman. "The ball usually doesn't bounce off like that, which is weird to see," Kubel said. Washington responded immediately, tying the game by converting four third-inning singles into two runs off Perkins. But the Twins pulled away in the fourth, scoring four runs, including a two-run triple by Cuddyer. They never looked back, as the only run the Nationals could muster the rest of the way was a meaningless Dmitri Young solo shot in the eighth inning off Perkins with the score already 9-2. Despite being allowed to pitch eight innings, Perkins (3-2) was not at his best, running into problems in the third, fourth, fifth and eighth innings. It took 106 pitches, 10 hits and three earned runs, but the left-hander got out of jams and gave the bullpen a rest. "I gave up 10 hits today, but nine of them were singles," Perkins said. "I don't want to jinx myself, but I'll give up a home run here and there, but they've all been solos. And it's making pitches with guys on base. Everyone is going to give up hits; everyone is going to give up runs. But it's avoiding that big inning by not giving up that big hit with guys on base. Let them chip away, get a single here, a single there, get a guy out. They are going to score runs, so it's just trying to minimize those innings." Craig Breslow pitched a scoreless ninth for the Twins to finish off the Nationals. "Perkins was pretty good," Gardenhire said. "He worked himself out of some trouble, gave us a good eight innings. We didn't have to use our bullpen too much." The Twins jumped all over Hill, who was chased after 3 2/3 innings, having given up 10 hits and seven runs, six of which were earned. "To be honest, I was throwing strikes, sometimes too many strikes, not mixing [my pitches] enough," Hill said. "It's frustrating, getting the same kind of results. I didn't have good movement on anything. The ball was over the middle of the plate. It was a situation where it shouldn't have been." Contributing to the headache of the Nationals' pitching staff was Joe Mauer, Cuddyer, Kubel, Buscher and Brendan Harris, all of whom had two hits. Kubel, in particular, is starting to heat up, and several players acknowledged after the game that the entire Twins' offense is starting to come on. "I'm starting to feel a lot better, starting to feel like I did at the end of last year and before I got hurt," Kubel said.
Thor Nystrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.