Maybe the best game ever

Posted on October 7th, 2009 – 12:52 AM
By Howard

Where to begin?

Maybe at the end, with the unexpected exacta of Carlos Gomez scoring the winning run on a single by Alexi Casilla. If someone had asked you to name the game’s heroes and you picked those two,  I suspect you would have been hauled away for a drug test. And Bobby Keppel as winning pitcher? The same Bobby Keppel who had rung up embarrassing numbers in his previous tries to be a major league pitcher and again last season when his ERA banged up close to 6 in Class AAA. Little wonder he was at the head of the posse to greet Gomez when he scored the winning run.

But go through the box score of this incredible game and you will find pieces of heroics next to many, many names. There was the big stuff — the OC and Kubel home runs, the Cuddyer triple and the marvelous play that Punto made getting the force at home in the 12th. And there was the small stuff — Mauer nursing shaky pitchers through tough times, new hires Rauch and Mahay retiring key batters in brief stints, Gardy getting a clearly overmatched Jose Morales out of the game midway through the game, the Cuddyer walk that chased Tigers starter Rick Porcello. Everyone who batted for the Twins got a hit except for Morales anmd Brendan Harris, who got hit by a pitch instead.

Gardy and Rick Anderson pretty much co-managed their a$$e$ off over those 4 3/4 hours. They ran eight pitchers out to the mound, and worked their way through some unexpected situations. Most notable was Guerrier’s shrinking strike zone in the eighth, which forced Joe Nathan to come in early to get through that inning and the ninth. The trade-off for Gardy taking no chances early was that he was forced to take chances late — keeping Keppel on the mound and warming up Manship and Liriano at times in the late, late going.

Meanwhile, Jim Leyland was more of a minimalist, which meant that his closer, Fernando Rodney, was in his fourth inning of work when Gomez led off with a single and scored on Casilla’s one-out bouncer to right. Had the Twins lost, the “why pull Nathan?” chorus would have been a loud and lengthy one. You know that, right? Both managers had to choose their poisons and then hope they wouldn’t be lethal. Leyland got stung when he opted to keep Zach Miner in for the seventh, when Cabrera hit his home run that moved the Twins into a 4-3 lead that lasted until Magglio Ordonez homered off Guerrier to start the eighth

But enough about the game. For fans, both the buildup and the play itself did a pretty good job of replicating the World Series years while providing a new batch of memorable wrinkles. The Dome got that loud when Cabrera homered, and again at various times as the Twins and Tigers jabbed and danced while looking to deliver a knockout. There was an older man sitting next to me whose eyes were probably better in the ’80s and ’90s, as he often asked me for details so he could fill out his scorecard while we watched from halfway up the second deck. But he was as loud as anyone around us when it came to the cheering part. There was an infant smiling through much of the din whose parents came to the game separately, so when Junior had had enough, one could go and the other could stay. That boy will grow up well-parented.

Our friend Sooze, the Babes Love Baseball blogger, was thrilled that she saw nine innings after a crazed search for parking that caused her not to arrive until the third inning. She was the one with the Spantastic banner in the upper deck and the baseball tattoo on her shoulder. We shouted, we yelped, we took pictures. We called people so they could hear the noise when the winning run scored. We waited with atypical urban patience in the parking lot afterward and didn’t mind a bit.

Perhaps my best move was the TiVo TBS for 5 1/2 hours starting at 4 p.m. So I have the entire fabulous game to watch if I don’t get enough of a highlight fix from ESPN and KSTP over the next few hours. I hope you get a chance to hear Dan Gladden’s radio call of the winning hit. There are no memorable catchphrases — “And we’ll see you tomorrow night,” for example — but it is clean and it is minimal and the excitement is conveyed by tone of voice.

And now the Yankees. I’ll let Game 1 pass before I deal with that. You deal with it, Gardy!

The Twins are on a business trip.

Their fans are on a joy ride.

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