Six-run seventh leads to series win
Bunt single from Mauer ignites big inning for Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- If at first you don't succeed, then bunt. This isn't Minnesota's motto, but it could have been on Saturday.The Twins flailed away at Diamondbacks starter Micah Owings for six innings with no runs to show for their efforts. So catcher Joe Mauer tried a new tactic. Leading off the seventh, he laid down a bunt against a defense playing back. Mauer narrowly beat out a throw by third baseman Augie Ojeda, and, unexpectedly, the Twins' offense took off. Mauer's bunt energized the Metrodome's crowd of 25,505 and instigated a six-run inning that culminated in a 6-1 Minnesota victory. "They were giving it to me, so why not?" Mauer said.
Justin Morneau doubled Mauer home, tying the game at 1. Owings induced a Michael Cuddyer groundout, but then walked Jason Kubel, which caused Arizona manager Bob Melvin to pull Owings for reliever Chad Qualls. Delmon Young then singled home Morneau, and Brian Buscher delivered the knockout punch with a two-RBI double deep to left field over the head of former Twins prospect Alex Romero.By the time the inning had ended, Minnesota had converted six hits and two walks into six runs -- the only runs it would score on the day. "I was surprised at the time, but looking back, I'm not," Owings said. "Obviously, I'm frustrated about it, but it's part of the game, and he's a great athlete and a great hitter, but it caught me off guard." Ojeda, who had entered the game after Mark Reynolds twisted his right ankle during an at-bat in the previous inning, barehanded the ball and slinged it sidearm, but couldn't get Mauer. "I know Joe likes to bunt," Ojeda said. "I was up even with the base line, so it wasn't like I wasn't expecting it. It wasn't a surprise. We have him down as a bunter. You can't come too far in, and then he'll slash one by you and it will be, 'Why are you playing so close?' You've got to give him credit. He made a great play." It was Mauer's fourth bunt hit of the season, which is tied for second on the team with diminutive speedster Alexi Casilla. "That will be in the back of his mind, probably, for a while," Buscher said of Ojeda. "I think Joe surprised the entire stadium, including us." The bunt, indeed, was not called in. Reynolds had played Mauer deep earlier in the game, which caused the idea to take shape in the catcher's head. Plus, Mauer said, he wasn't seeing the ball well from Owings. "Late in the game, with a one-run game, just getting on base is a big thing," Mauer said. "And with Morneau hitting behind me, we could take the lead with one swing." The bunt and big seventh inning took some attention away from Twins starter Nick Blackburn, who had been involved in a pitchers' duel with Owings for the first 6 1/2 innings. After the big seventh, and with a five-run cushion, pitching coach Rick Anderson told Blackburn that they were going to take him out of the game. Blackburn went seven innings, allowing one earned run on seven hits. "Everything is finally starting to click, and I'm starting to get on top of my pitches," Blackburn said. Owings went 6 1/3 innings and was tagged with three earned runs on five hits and the loss. "That guy had a great sinker going, a great slider going and a great changeup," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The ball was diving down. He didn't make it easy for us." It was the second consecutive night that the Twins had defeated the Diamondbacks via a six-run inning. The club has now won five straight and seven of eight. "It's a great sign, especially how we are getting runs in bunches," Michael Cuddyer said. "We had a big inning last night that won us the game, we had a big inning today that won us the game. That's what you need to do. You need to be able to get some hits and sustain that inning and score four-plus runs, and we've been able to do that two nights in a row now against a good team."
Thor Nystrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.