Twins take Game 1 of doubleheader in Detroit

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Ron Gardenhire did his best to over-manage the game by calling for five bunts–including a suicide squeeze that resulted in an inning-ending double play–but the Twins still prevailed in extra innings this afternoon to take Game 1 of the crucial doubleheader in Detroit.
Nick Blackburn and Rick Porcello both turned in strong starts, combining for 13.1 frames of two-run ball, but the Twins got to Brandon Lyon for a pair of 10th-inning runs in his second inning of work. That gave closer Joe Nathan a bit of breathing room and he needed it, serving up a leadoff homer to Curtis Granderson before getting three straight outs for his league-leading 45th save.
Minnesota is now just one game back of Detroit in the AL Central, but the Tigers have a sizable advantage for Game 2 with ace Justin Verlander and 26-year-old rookie Brian Duensing taking the mound in less than four hours. A win by Verlander would essentially leave the Twins needing to win both of the final two games to have any sort of realistic shot at the division title.
However, if the Twins can pull off an upset victory against Verlander they’ll be tied atop the division and in the driver’s seat with Scott Baker and Carl Pavano matching up against Eddie Bonine and Nate Robertson to finish the series. As the great Ernie Banks said, let’s play two!

Mariners sweep A’s in two-game Japan Series

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The big news, of course, is Ichiro’s retirement. But there was a baseball game that counted today as well and the Mariners took it. Seattle beat Oakland 5-4 in 12 innings to sweep the two-game Japan Series.

Ichiro may have taken an 0-for-4 in his last game, but Ryon Healy and Mitch Haniger homered for the Mariners, staking Seattle to a 3-0 lead after three. The A’s picked up two in the fifth and Seattle added one via a Jay Bruce sac fly to make it 4-2 in the seventh. Oakland tied things back up, ultimately sending it to extras when Khris Davis singled in Matt Chapman in the seventh. Davis would blow a chance to put Oakland ahead in the 11th when he struck out with the bases loaded.

In the twelfth, Domingo Santana, who hit a grand slam in Seattle’s win in the opener on Wednesday, beat out a would-be double-play with the bases loaded to drive in the go-ahead and, ultimately, winning run.

The rebuilding Mariners are now 2-0 on the young year. The A’s, who won 97 games last year, are 0-2. Viva the smallest of sample sizes.