I'm still absorbing one of the strangest, and best, games I've ever attended.
So much to say about Tuesday's 6-5 12-inning tiebreaker.
I'll start with this: I was seated in the upper deck right field, which means that the right fielder was just a rumor to me and that home plate was about 400 feet away.
To my eyes, the home plate ump (Randy Marsh) was brutal. I understand, having perused a few stories and columns since I got home, that people with a better angle than I agree.
*Nick Punto was a marvel. His last three plate appearances were superb — a single on a 3-2 pitch (and a run scored), a walk on another 3-2 pitch, and what should have been the game-winning sac fly. I believe he fell behind in all three at-bats and battled back. Plus he had that marvelous force play at the plate to save Bobby Keppel's bacon in the 12th inning.
* That forceout followed what I thought was a questionable decision by Ron Gardenhire to walk Ryan Raburn intentionally to load the bases. Yeah, Raburn is a better hitter than Brandon Inge or Gerald Laird; that's not saying much. My issue with it is that Keppel's command is always dicey.
Inge bounced into the force play, but only after apparently getting grazed by a Keppel pitch. I thought it caught his jersey, at least, but — again — I was 400 feet away, and if that's the best place to call pitches they'd put the ump out there. Laird followed the force out by getting ahead 3-1; I said to the guy next to me that Jim Leyland should give him the take sign. Instead, Laird fouled a pitch off — I suspect it was high — to go to 3-2, then chased a low pitch for the strike out.
Questionable decision by Gardy, worse one by Leyland.
* I wanted Brian Buscher to pinch hit for Alexi Casilla in the 12th. Gardenhire had other ideas. His worked. Still, Casilla had had just two at-bats since Sept. 11, as Gardenhire follows his pattern of running with a set lineup in the final month — and Casilla was the worst hitter with 200 plate appearances in the AL this year. And he was in the DH slot, so defense wasn't a consideration. But then, Buscher has had one game appearance — no trips to the plate — since Sept. 19.
*Rick Porcello struck out eight Twins. That matched his season high. Considering his low K rate — 4.4 K/ entering the game — and the tight leash on innings he's been kept on — I'm surprised he'd had an eight strikeout game. If he stays healthy, he's going to be great.
* Leyland apparently boiled his bullpen down the four guys he was willing to take a chance with: Fu-Te Ni, Zach Miner, Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney, which is how he wound up having his closer throw 48 pitches. Gardenhire went a lot deeper than that — I think he would have used Jeff Manship in the 13th if the game had gone that far — and was, if anything, over aggressive in pulling Ron Mahay after one batter.
* Jose Mijares may have hit the wall. Or be scared by the Delmon Young incident last week. Or something. Whatever it is, he's been brutal his last few outings, and they'll need him effective against New York.
* Other than Jason Kubel's home run — and wasn't that a bomb? — the Twins' RBIs came from Matt Tolbert, Casilla and Orlando Cabrera. Joe Mauer reached base four times, but when he came up with men on base, he was walked.
*Miguel (Drunk Tank) Cabrera doubled, walked and had a two-run homer (plus three ground outs). Had he rung up another 0-fer as he did through the White Sox series last weekend, he would have been a prime scrapegoat for the Tigers' failure to win the divisional title.
He still may be, but he's still Detroit's best player. Which, in a way, only deepens their dilemma about what to do with his behavior.