That was quite the infield Ron Gardenhire started Saturday in Oakland:
Granting that Tolbert and Valencia had combined for just 21 major league plate appearances entering the game, it's a pretty grim state of affairs when Nick Punto is the slugger of the infield.
Behind such a makeshift alignment: Injuries, absences and weariness.
- Orlando Hudson, who the Twins had expected/hoped would be ready to return to the lineup in Oakland, isn't; I rather expect him to go on the disabled list Tuesday when Michael Cuddyer returns from the bereavement list.
- Justin Morneau needed a day off, and came a pinch-hitting appearance short of actually getting one.
- J.J. Hardy, who is just 5 for 38 since returning from the disabled list, was scratched with a sore wrist but wound up pinch-running for Morneau and scored the winning run.
- And Cuddyer, who has started games at first and second this season, is gone for his father-in-law's funeral.
That strange asemblage worked. Tolbert drove home the winning run. The infield played cleanly, with Harris making a savvy play to turn an off-target throw from Punto into a tag out. Valencia and Punto each had a single and a walk.
The winning rally featured an odd managerial decision: With the score tied, the bases empty and one out in the top of the ninth and Brad Ziegler pitching for Oakland, Morneau pinch-hit for Harris. Ziegler is a submarine righty vulnerable to left-handed hitters, and Morneau has been on a tear.
Oakland manager Bob Geren defied the convention that says you don't put the winning run on. He had Ziegler issue an intentional walk. Hardy ran for Morneau. Then Punto walked, putting runners on first and second. Denard Span grounded into a force play, moving Hardy to third, and Tolbert singled.
Counting Morneau, Ziegler had to face four straight left-handed hitters, two of them with the go-ahead run in scoring position; he got one of them out.