- Game 163
Yeah, some of the excitement over that game has been tempered after getting swept out of the ALDS (Especially after that one particularly painful loss. Now let us never speak of it again). But it was, without question, one of the greatest games I have ever witnessed in my entire life. I mean, look at this graph:
Almost every single at-bat after the sixth inning is a high-leverage situation! This game might even better than games six and seven of the 1991 World Series, if only because I was only nine years old at the time and don't remember those games quite as clearly.
- The offense done 'sploded
After dropping a season-high six games in a row, the Twins took out all of their frustration on the Pale Hose, torching Bartolo Colon and the bullpen for 20 runs on 22 hits. Four of those hits left the yard, including Joe Mauer's second career grand slam. Heck, even Matt Tolbert joined the party with his first major-league home run. All that and some Blackbeard pwnage made for one of the most lopsided victories in franchise history (Interestingly enough, this is the second time in three seasons that the Twins have pasted the White Sox for 20 runs. This was the first). The Twins were
- Scott Baker two-hits the Indians
Honorable mentions: Nick Blackburn came up big in two of the most important starts of his career (and he wasn't half-bad in the ALDS, either). In his best start of the season (and probably the second-best of anyone in the rotation), Francisco Liriano dominated the Royals, striking out eight and only walking one. Kevin Slowey struck out a season-high 10 batters in a game against the Cubs, whiffing nine, though he also gave up three runs in six innings
- Jason Kubel hits for the cycle
(again, via Fangraphs)
Michael Cuddyer hit for the cycle this year, too, but in less dramatic fashion. It was during a pretty routine trouncing of the Brew Crew.
This game is a perfect illustration of why the intentional walk is seldom a smart move. I don't want to be too critical of Scioscia here: it was a relatively meaningless game in April, and he was essentially following conventional wisdom. Justin Morneau had gotten off to a hot start, batting .341/.348/.568 in his first eleven games. Jason Kubel was also swinging a pretty hot bat, but he had always been considerably less dangerous than the Mountie. Conventional wisdom dictates that in a high-leverage situation such as this, the right move is to pitch around the better hitter and take your chances with the weaker one. However, Kubel had already collected three hits in the game, two of which were for extra bases. Morneau, on the other hand, hadn't done squat. And even though Morneau is a better hitter in general, Kubel absolutely punishes right-handed pitching. And that's precisely what he did to Jason Bulger. It is rarely ever a good idea to put an extra batter on base if one can possibly avoid it, especially if doing so loads the bases, and especially if the next batter is a pretty darn good one. Obviously, if Bulger were lifted in favor of a lefty or if Nick Punto were batting behind Morneau, the move would have made more sense.
This is hardly a definitive list of anything, so if you think I missed something, feel free to add it in the comments section.