Big fifth gives Twins sweep of D-backs
Five-run inning propels Minnesota to its sixth straight victory
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins looked skyward for salvation during Sunday's 5-3 sweep-ensuring victory over the Diamondbacks. Arizona left fielder Conor Jackson became the latest victim of the Metrodome's Teflon roof, losing a Delmon Young fifth-inning fly ball, which ignited a five-run inning. Who was responsible?"The Dome gods helped us out," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire quipped. With Arizona leading, 3-0, in the bottom of the fifth inning and Jason Kubel on first base, Young hit a towering shot off D-backs starter Brandon Webb that bounced in front of the befuddled Jackson. Young was credited with a double and Kubel landed on third. Brian Buscher subsequently singled the pair in. The Twins offense then scored three more runs in the inning, including a two-run single by Alexi Casilla.
"I saw it off the bat and that's about it," Jackson said. "I'm sure I'm not the first person to do it here, sure I won't be the last. I didn't want to throw my hands up because if I throw my hands up, he's probably going to score."The win ensured a pleasant reunion for Livan Hernandez, who pitched against his former team for the first time since leaving Arizona for Minnesota in the offseason. Hernandez pitched for the D-backs in parts of the past two seasons, going 11-11 with a 4.93 ERA for Arizona in 2007. Hernandez lasted seven innings on Sunday, allowing nine hits and three runs, only one of which was earned. "That team maybe had a plan for me, and I had a different plan," Hernandez said of the familiarity in facing his former teammates. "I tried to change because they have known me for two years and I have known those guys. [Catcher Chris] Snyder hit the ball good today [2-for-3]. Maybe he knew what I was going to throw every time." Hernandez credited the success to his sinker and a slight increase in velocity to his fastball. The win completed a Twins sweep and a perfect 6-0 homestand. Jackson, Arizona's regular first baseman, has made six of his past 11 starts in left field. Doing so allows the D-backs to keep the bats of Chad Tracy and Mark Reynolds in the lineup, while simultaneously plugging a hole that was created when the team placed Eric Byrnes on the disabled list. "If he was on our team, I would have felt bad for him," Michael Cuddyer said. "It's tough, especially day games. Day games are the hardest because the sun outside puts a yellowish tint on the roof, which is also what the ball has. So it's difficult, day games especially, when you have never played out there." It was the third consecutive win against Arizona that directly stemmed from big innings. On Friday, Minnesota rode a six-run third inning to a 7-2 victory, and on Saturday, the club used a six-run seventh to win, 6-1. "It snowballed again in one inning," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "Conor loses the ball in the roof, which I can't fault him. He played the position pretty well -- he just lost one ball in the roof. We just couldn't nail it down after that. It just got out of hand just like the previous couple of games." Said first baseman Justin Morneau of the big innings: "It's funny because there hasn't really been any three-run homers in there, either. It's been single, single, bunt them over, a little base hit up the middle, another base hit and then somebody hits a double. It's kind of like a couple years ago. It's kind of like The Piranhas. Take a little nibble at a time, a little nibble at a time, and all of a sudden you look up there and we've scored four, five, six runs." The Twins had fallen behind earlier in the game after succumbing to a pair of fourth-inning miscues. With runners on first and second in that frame, Hernandez allowed a single to Snyder. The ball rolled into left field, where Young charged it in hopes of contesting Jackson, who was rounding third and heading home. But Young allowed the ball to roll under his glove. By the time center fielder Carlos Gomez had retrieved it, Snyder stood on third and two runs were in. Snyder scored on the next at-bat when Hernandez threw a wild pitch. In the top of the fifth, Arizona threatened to extend the lead. Stephen Drew and Augie Ojeda singled to lead off the inning, leading to an Orlando Hudson bunt attempt. But Hudson missed the ball, and catcher Joe Mauer shot out of his stance and took aim at second base, where Drew had strayed too far. A perfect throw nailed him, and Hudson then grounded into an inning-ending double play. "That got us out of possibly a big inning. That was huge," Gardenhire said. Jesse Crain pitched a scoreless eighth before passing the game off to Joe Nathan, who recorded his 19th save. The Twins have won eight of nine games, all against National League opponents. They'll get a chance to continue the prosperity on Tuesday in San Diego.
Thor Nystrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.