Let’s start at the end. It must be great to be Gardy and look down your bench in Toronto with two out in the ninth inning, with the tying run coming to the plate, and have no better alternative than … JASON TYNER! Game over, eh.
What would have been even greater? How about if Torii Hunter had been thrown out at third base in the ninth on Jason Kubel’s fly out to left field. That run, by itself, meant zero. For Torii to take that risk, barely making it ahead of the throw, was not exactly doing a little thing right.
And speaking of baserunning. Nick Punto extended his consecutive games-with-a-botched-play streak to five when he combined with Tyner and Luis Castillo for a baserunning-blunder-filled double play when the Twins were on the verge of tying the game in the fifth inning.
(A strategy sidenote here. If this is too technical, just skip it and curse the ineptitude. A team will sometimes put on a “contact play” with a runner on third base. When there’s a runner on first as well, the idea is for the runner on third to head home on contact, inducing a rundown if needed — even if it means getting tagged out — to avoid a ground-ball double play. Done well, a team can still emerge with runners at first and third — or even second and third — if the rundown goes on long enough.)
With no outs, Tyner on third and Punto on first, Castillo tapped a soft grounder toward first. Tyner ran on contact, which was a bad idea because the ball was hit softly enough that, if Tyner had held at third, there was no way the Jays were going to get a force-at-second, out-at-first double play. Not with Castillo running. As Gardy pointed out after the game, the runner on third has to be able to adjust — on something like a soft grounder, for example.
That didn’t happen. Tyner went home and got caught in a rundown. Punto, meanwhile, thought he could go from first to third. Nope. Tyner got tagged too quickly heading for home, Punto got tagged sliding into third and an inning that started with promise for the Twins to tie or take the lead ended scoreless. That was doing little things big-time wrong.
Gardy: “We kinda got in a real big mess out on the bases. That wasn’t very pretty. We ran ourselves right out of it. … You have to be smart about it.”
And speaking of being smart about it, there’s a time for Joe Mauer to put down a bunt. But on a night when balls are flying — and he’s already 2-for-2 with a hard triple and a line single — what was up with the bunt to start the sixth?
The frustration was enough that happy-talkers LaPanta and Coomer even provoked Bert into going after Johan and Mauer. The studio boys suggested to Johan wasn’t sharp because of the number of pitches (118) he threw against Detroit in his last start.
Bert bristled and went off (by Blylevian standards), pointing out that Thomas smashed two home runs on pitches that were well out over the plate when Santana should have been jamming Thomas: “I just think (Johan) went about his business the wrong way, especially against Frank Thomas. Location, location. … I mean where’s the game plan right here? There’s Joe Mauer sitting right down the (middle of the) plate. My goodness.”
Go read about Rondell’s return elsewhere, eh.