© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
09/19/09 10:25 PM ET
Saved by roof: Twins within two games
Minnesota scores five late after ball obscured by dome
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- There are only four regular-season games remaining for the Twins underneath the Teflon roof of the Metrodome.
But it's plenty of time for the old ballpark to give some reminders of its infamous quirks and perhaps even to provide a few more home-field advantages to the team that has called it home for the past 28 years.
On Saturday afternoon, Minnesota received one more break courtesy of that now dingy, gray-white roof.
With the Twins trailing by a run in the eighth inning, Tigers left fielder Don Kelly lost Orlando Cabrera's sky-high popup in that daylight-lit Teflon to begin a five-run frame that resulted in Minnesota's 6-2 victory over Detroit and that moved it within two games of the American League Central lead.
"We definitely weren't thinking something like that was going to happen," Denard Span said. "But I think this team always knows in this dome, especially with the amount of fans here, we just get a little momentum going and we will break through and make something happen."
Kelly's roof-induced mistake, which came one inning after he entered as a defensive replacement, allowed the Twins to put to go-ahead run in scoring position. After Justin Verlander intentionally walked Joe Mauer to load the bases, Jason Kubel hit a blooper into short left field that fell in front of Kelly, scoring two runs and causing 43,338 fans -- the largest crowd at the Metrodome since Opening Day -- to erupt in raucous applause.
It marked the end of the day for Verlander and spoiled what had been a stellar outing by the Detroit ace, although his finishing line didn't show it.
Right after Kubel's two-run single, Michael Cuddyer cemented the Twins' comeback with a three-homer to deep center field -- his fourth homer in five days -- off reliever Brandon Lyon.
It was Minnesota's sixth straight win -- its longest winning streak of the season -- and moved the club to a season-high four games above .500. And the Twins now have a chance to move within one game of the Tigers if they can win on Sunday.
"We wish we would have played like this more of the season, but better late than never," Cuddyer said. "We've still got a chance. We've given ourselves a chance. Hopefully we can play like this the next 14 games."
The Twins had constantly reminded themselves in recent weeks of the seven games they had remaining with the Tigers. And having taken the first two of those seven, the club has made this truly a division race now, and they seem to be feeling better about their chances in it.
"We know that we're not done yet," Cabrera said. "It's a long way to go, but we're playing with a lot of intensity, which is important. We're playing every pitch as hard as we can and playing smart baseball. We have to keep the intensity going."
Minnesota certainly showed that intensity in the eighth inning, when with a little help from the roof, it rallied against Verlander. For most of the day, Verlander had showed why he's considered among the best in AL.
Having allowed just one run before that fateful eighth inning, Verlander was still hitting the high 90s on the radar gun when he was near the end of his 128-pitch outing.
"The guy is a stud," Cuddyer said. "That's what studs do, go back out there in the eighth with 100-and-some pitches, and he says, 'Either I'm going to win it or I'm going to lose it.' You've got to respect a guy like that, to be able to go out and dominate. The line didn't look like it at the end when it was all said and done, but he dominated today."
Pavano, who entered the game 4-0 with a 1.48 in four starts vs. Detroit, gave up 11 hits over his first five innings but found a way to work his way out of jams. That included inducing an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded in the fifth.
"I don't think I've been particularly dominant against them," Pavano said. "I've just made pitches when I needed to, and that's the name of our job as a starting pitcher."
"It's more frustrating with two runs on 11 hits," added Tigers catcher Gerald Laird. "I had a double play with the bases loaded. We just couldn't get that one hit to break the game open."
The Twins have found ways to defeat their opponents during their recent winning streak, and while it's not always pretty, they seem ready to take wins whatever way they come.
That even means taking victories when the roof provides them with a gift, like it did on Saturday.
"That was huge, you could say that was probably the play of the game," Cuddyer said of Cabera's "dome" double in the eighth. "We only have four more regular-season games [here], and I guess we took advantage today."