Here’s a little refresher on the series, before I begin:
Basically, the premise of the series is that certain games have an effect that is far greater than their mere impact on the win-loss column. These games are mentally and physically definitive of a season, and before the new season begins, by looking back and remembering and feeling the emotions of last season one more time, we can understand what happened, what went wrong, and most importantly, what went right. So, climb aboard the side-burn express, and keep your hands, arms, feet, heads, and all other extremities inside the vehicles at all times as we embark on one final excursion through the highs and lows of last season.
Before I get too far into this game, let me say two things: One, I don’t have as much to say about this game as I do about the others, and second, this was a really, really weird game.
I frankly don’t know what the Twins expected with this game. I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but I think the only reason Francisco Liriano had the start was because Jeff Manship had three poor starts in a row – a total of 11 ER in 15 innings for a cool 6.6 ERA (Yeah, I know ERA sucks, but it’s really easy go calculate). Of course, it didn’t really matter that the Twins were avoiding giving Manship the start, because he ended up pitching more innings than Liriano anyway.
So, about the weirdness.
Liriano was called on to start after having been mostly ineffective as a reliever since coming back from an “injury” (can we all agree that he was so bad he was taken out for his mental health?) that removed him from the rotation a month earlier. He lasted a shorter time as a starter than he did in 2 of his three relief appearances. However, in that 1.2 innings, he managed to lose the game. The first inning was fine – one hit, but then two groundouts and a K followed. The second inning, however, was a disaster. The inning went like this: double, walk, sac bunt, homer, walk pop-up, stolen base,passed ball, walk, Manship replaces Liriano. Liriano managed to demonstrate in 2/3 of an inning why exactly he was so bad for most/all of last year – lack of command. In his outing, he threw 45 pitches, but only 24 for strikes. Several of the strikes he did get were the result of wild flailing.
Oh, and that home run? It was by this guy:
On the offensive side, the Twins had to deal with the eventual Cy Young winner, Zack Greinke. Now, up until this game, the Twins had managed to avoid him all season. This game, however, showed that had they faced Greinke every time the Twins and Royals played, the Twins might not have been headed for Game 163 after all.
That said, there was more weirdness to come. Greinke struck out eight, but gave up seven hits and two walks. The lineup did not lack for opportunities. However, the failure to convert on those opportunities that quite often manifested throughout the season rose up and bit the Twins during this game, with only a few games left in the season and headed to the big Detroit series. Joakim Soria came in and gave up 4 hits in a 2 inning save. The game, which I do remember fairly well for some reason, is just a reminder of the crazy frustration I felt with this team from time to time last year. That said, there were still good things to come…