Two things happened in last night's 4-3 loss to the Rangers that infuriated me; little mistakes that likely cost the Twins a valuable win. Neither mistake will appear in the box score, but they were game altering plays nevertheless.
The first error occurred in the bottom of the 4th inning. Josh Hamilton had started off the inning with a homer, a solo shot that tied the game at 2. Guerrero then grounded out, Murphy struck out and with 2 outs, Bengie Molina stepped up to the plate. He hit a fly ball to the gap in right center which both Span and Kubel chased, but at the last second, Kubel freaked out and the ball dropped, a ball that could and should have been caught. That would have been the 3rd out of the inning, but instead the inning continued, Moreland hit an infield single, Blanco his a ground-rule double and the Twins escaped the inning, but were now down a run instead of tied.
The second costly error came in the top of the 7th; Delmon had reached on an infield single, moved to 3rd on a single by Valencia, scored on a double by Casilla and with NOBODY out in the 7th, the Twins had tied the game and had men at 2nd and 3rd. Butera lined out to 3rd and luckily for Valencia, it happened so fast that he didn't even have time to react off of 3rd. So again, 1 out, men on 2nd and 3rd. DSpan was the next batter and hit a sharp grounder to 1st which was played cleanly by Moreland; inexplicably Valencia broke for home and was thrown out on a close play at home. I can understand running on a ground-ball to the SS, 2nd basemen or up the middle, but not to a corner infielder. This is the second or third time in the past week or so that the Twins have had a batter thrown out at the plate in a close game, including a play involving Jim Thome against the Sox where he was out by a mile. Granted, in this situation DSpan would have been out anyway and there still would have been 2 outs, men on 2nd and 3rd, but to me that's much more pressure on a pitcher than 2 outs, men on 1st and 3rd, maybe that's just me.
I realize that good players have bad games and that players make mistakes and that's a part of baseball. But to me, when a team has a goal and they have aspirations of a winning a championship, there is a focus that should be there. Dropping a catch-able fly ball (let's be honest, this is nothing new this year) and breaking for home on a groundball to a corner infielder are mistakes that are made when the focus is not there...or when the appropriate level of preparations have not been made.
I wrote a piece the other day about what a 5 game lead means. Since then, that lead has decreased by 1.5 games. Getting blanked 4-0 the other night and barely scratching out 1 hit...that happens, that didn't concern me too much, every team has those games. But losing a game you had myriad opportunities to take control of, that worries me, especially when the Twins are in the thick of a pennant chase and are playing a potential playoff opponent. The task doesn't get any easier the next two night as the Twins will be facing CJ Wilson and Cliff Lee, two of the Rangers best, and most consistent, pitchers.