Late power surge lifts Twins over Phillies despite Slowey's struggles
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How unusual was the late power surge that put the Minnesota Twins in position for Saturday's come-from-behind, 13-10 victory at Philadelphia?
Consider the following:
• The Twins trailed 9-4 entering the ninth inning, when Delmon Young's leadoff single set the stage for pinch hitter Jim Thome's mammoth home run to center field. It was the first homer since May 2 for Thome, who has gotten only nine starts over the past six weeks -- a span in which he was hitting .216 with two RBIs entering Saturday.
• Joe Mauer completed the ninth-inning rally with a two-out, two-run homer -- his first since May 14. In roughly five weeks since, Mauer had been decidedly average -- 31-for-123 (.252), including 0-for-4 on Saturday, with 10 doubles, 12 RBIs and a .338 on-base percentage. Had he recorded an out instead, his season batting average would have dipped to an even .300.
• Drew Butera's pinch-hit home run in the 10th gave the Twins a 10-9 lead and was the first of his major-league career. In five minor-league seasons, Butera hit only 21 homers, and he entered Saturday hitting .154 with only one extra-base hit in 39 at-bats.
Closer Jon Rauch blew the lead when pinch hitter Ross Gload hit a two-out homer in the bottom of the 10th. But Rauch also laid down the sacrifice bunt that got Mauer to third base in the 11th, allowing him to score on Young's infield single before Matt Tolbert drove in Justin Morneau -- who also homered -- and Young on a double to left.
STRUGGLING IN SUNNY PHILADELPHIA
The 13 runs were the second most for the Twins this season -- they beat Boston 15-3 on May 21 -- and they needed all of them, because Kevin Slowey still can't get in control when the sun is out.
By the time he exited after 1 2/3 innings on Saturday afternoon -- the same number Nick Blackburn lasted in an equally terrible start for the Minnesota Twins on Friday -- Slowey had surrendered seven runs on seven hits and failed to record a groundball out.
It was the latest in a series of daytime disasters for Slowey, who is 1-3 with a 7.71 earned-run average in day games, compared to an impressive 6-1 and 2.77 at night.
The two second-inning home runs he surrendered to the Phillies -- a leadoff, go-ahead blast by No. 8 hitter Wilson Valdez and a two-run shot by Ryan Howard that ushered in Jeff Manship from the bullpen -- increased Slowey's total to 10 in six daytime starts, compared to two homers in eight starts at night.
Slowey still hasn't completed six innings in a day game this season, with his strikeout-to walk ratio (23:12 versus 34:5 at night) indicative at least in part of a battle with his control. And this day/night disparity isn't anything new -- for his career, Slowey is 26-9 with a 3.49 ERA at night, compared to 7-10 and 6.37 during the day.
Most frustrating for Slowey and the Twins has to be the way his best run of the season -- in three nighttime starts from May 28 to June 8, he pitched 20 2/3 innings and allowed only two runs (0.87 ERA) -- has given way to the same old issue. Atlanta scored six runs (five earned) in Slowey's 4 2/3 innings last Sunday (a 1:10 p.m. start) and Philadelphia handed him the shortest start of his career on Saturday.
At some point, manager Ron Gardenhire might have to start considering Slowey's vampiric production when an off day provides the chance to adjust the rotation. If there's no change on Monday -- the Twins' last off day for two weeks -- Slowey would be scheduled to pitch a series finale against division rival Detroit on June 30, a 12:10 p.m. start.