With a couple day's rest under their belts and four-game winning streak winds in their sails, the Angels swept into the Twin Cities smelling winless-team blood. The Twins, of course, came into today's tussle 0-9 and you have to believe the Halos, with Garrett Richards on the mound against a team that's struggled to score thus far, were very confident in their chances to make it five in a row. But the Twins were hungry for that first W, and weren't going down easy, much to the Halos' dismay.
Richards and Minnesota starter Tommy Milone were in somewhat of a pitching duel up until the sixth inning. Before then, the righty in red matched up quite nicely with the lefty in...well, home red(but I mean the Twins/Milone), as they both were mostly crisp and efficient, but Richards would be the one who ultimately came out on top in this duel. He worked his change-up beautifully tonight, something you don't see often from Richards, but it really helped him get an advantage over the Twins and bolstered the rest of his pitching toolbag. Milone was having similar success, but it all came to a head in the sixth, when the game broke wide open.
In the top of the inning, the Angels got on the board first with a Yunel Escobar double, driving in Carlos Perez and giving them a 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the sixth, the Twins would strike right back, however, as Garrett Richards gave up an RBI double to Miguel Sano, that soared into deep center field and over Mike Trout's head. Next batter up, Trevor Plouffe drove home Sano with a double of his own, and the Twins had made it a 2-1 contest, advantage Minnesota. Richards would get out of that inning, but that was the end of his night. He finished with 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB and 6 Ks.
The seventh inning upped the action level tenfold and really got things cooking in this game, both for better and for worse. It had it all: ups, downs, bombs, meltdowns, hits, outs, happiness, sadness. First, in the top of the side the Angels got to Milone and they got to him hard. Albert Pujols hit a bomb, his first of the year, and tied the game up at 2-2. Before we could even settle down from that one, C.J. Cron got hit by a pitch, followed by Calhoun absolutely knocking the tar out of a Milone off-speed pitch(this would also be the end of the night for the Twins starter). The homer went past the bleachers in right and into the promenade. The Angels had a 4-2 lead and now they just needed to shut down the ailing Twinkies. Uhhh...so about that.
In the bottom of the 7th, Greg Mahle was brought in for Garrett Richards, and he didn't fare quite as well as he did in Oakland. He would strikeout one and then walk one, but in a 4-2 game, that walk is definitely a black eye. This made Mike Scioscia go to Mike Morin, who wouldn't ya know it, gives up an RBI double to Eduardo Nunez and the Twins were closing the gap. Jose Alvarez spelled Morin, but he fared no better; he gave up yet another Minnesota double, this time to Joe Mauer, and that pretty little 4-2 lead had been evened up at four apiece.
The game's crescendo would come in the eighth, but it was a jubilee big enough for only one of these ballclubs: fortune smiled upon the pitiful. The Angels had a chance to do some damage in the top, getting bases loaded, but a flyball from Andrelton Simmons killed the burgeoning rally and another Angels opportunity was squandered. The Twins would not make the same mistake.
With Fernando Salas in the game in the bottom of the eighth, and Halos honks responding by breaking out the brown paper bags to breathe into, things were about to go south for the Angels. Trevor Plouffe got on base with a single, then two batters later his was sent home by a stand-up double from Byung-ho Park. This game the 0-9 Twins a 5-4 lead, late in the game and ready to get their first win of the 2016 MLB season. Great for them, punch in the gut for us.
The Angels managed to get a guy on in the top of the ninth, but former Halo Kevin Jepsen stifled any surge they may have had in them, putting the hometown crowd on their feet as the final out came with Ji-Man Choi on third and Daniel Nava at the plate. Jepsen came straight at Nava with fastballs and struck him out, getting the crowd in a frenzy for the taste of victory, while the Angels shrugged and swallowed their defeat.
This was supposed to be one of the easy ones, but this is baseball. Heartbreaks always seem to surprise you, when really you should have seen them coming all along; if the outcome is expected, you'll get a fat helping of the unexpected. That's how the game rolls, and that's how the Angels roll tonight. Looking back, they played well but it was that wasted bases loaded situation in the eighth that seems to have been the regret of the night. Congrats to Minnesota, you have a win and are no longer a laughing stock. Take the brown paper bags off your heads, Twins fans. Although you should probably keep them handy for tomorrow.