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The Sox swept the three games against the Twins. Going into the series, this seemed as likely as Rahm Emanuel sending his kids to public school. The Twins have bedeviled the Sox in recent years, especially in the land of 10,000 lakes, all of which are above average.
It's been tough losing to the Twins the past few seasons, because my Minnesota relatives like to rub it in, something I would never do if the tables were turned. I have great respect for the whole state of Minnesota, which has contributed many fine Ole and Lena jokes to our culture, and whose state bird, the Loony Congresswoman, is now running for President.
The Big Breeze was a major contributor to the sweep, especially in the game he didn't play. He's such a force that he helps the Sox even when he's on the bench—so I hope manager Ozzie Guillen finds a spot for him there more often.
I attended just the Saturday night game, because tickets are expensive these days. Good seats are especially hard to get at Target Field. The park is in its sophomore season, and new-ballpark honeymoons tend to last a few years. A landfill would have been an improvement on the Twinkies' former home, the Hump Dome, with its right field wall trimmed in lovely baggies instead of ivy. The field in the new park has interesting quirky dimensions, and the sight lines are good if you're not blinded by the standard new-ballpark glut of blinking message boards. You know it’s Minnesota when you see wild rice soup at a concession stand. (“Buy me some peanuts and wild rice soup....”) There’s also Loon chili, but Loon is just the name of the company offering it, and very little of the state bird is actually in it. The three games with the Sox, like most games at Target, were played before packed houses.
The Sox took the Friday evening game, 5-3. Dunn went hitless in three trips and left five runners on. Mark Buehrle threw eight sparkling innings, surrendering just three runs, all in the first inning and all unearned—they scored after an error by a first baseman who will remain anonymous, as I'm trying not to be overly critical. On Sunday, with Dunn on the bench, the Sox mushed the Twinkies, 7-0.
In the middle game of the series—the one I went to—Dunn treated the crowd to a range of strikeouts. As Tolstoy said, all homers are alike, but each strikeout is its own special failure. The Big Breeze fanned on a majestic swing in the second inning. When he was called out on strikes in the fourth, he dropped his bat at the plate—I think he was objecting to the ump’s call, though he also may have been acknowledging that he could do without the lumber. After he whiffed in the fifth, he flipped the bat disgustedly to the wall behind the plate. To this point, his bat had traveled farther than any ball he'd hit. He finally made contact in the eighth, popping out to left.
Meantime, the Sox and Twins were locked in a thrilling battle, with the Sox up 2-1 into the ninth. The top half of that inning was especially satisfying, because the Sox resembled the voracious little piranhas that Ozzie usually and admiringly compares the Twins to.
Alejandro De Aza got it going with a single to left, then swiped second. After Brent Morel fanned, Juan Pierre walked. The Twins brought in their closer, Joe Nathan, to pitch to Alexei Ramirez. The Sox had speed on second and first and at the plate.
Ramirez had a fabulous at bat—the kind a box score overlooks. He took a strike, then fouled one off. Took a ball and fouled off two more. The next pitch bounded away from catcher Drew Butera, and De Aza and Pierre raced for third and second. Butera’s throw to third got away, and De Aza sprinted home. Ramirez fouled off three more, then watched balls three and four. Pierre stole third on ball three. A frustrated murmur spread through the crowd—uff da, it sounded like.
Eleven pitches, and what Nathan had to show for it was another run, another runner, and a tiring arm. I don’t know how many 11-pitch at bats Dunn has had this season; I’d bet it's zero. Can you imagine him making contact six times in one plate appearance?
With Pierre on third and Ramirez on first, Paul Konerko hit a double play grounder to short. Or it would have been a double play—but Ramirez had taken off for second on the pitch, so shortstop Matt Tolbert had to settle for the out at first, while Pierre sprinted across with another run.
Then it was Brent Lillibridge’s turn, in Dunn’s spot. He’d entered the game in the bottom of the eighth, ostensibly for defensive purposes—Dunn had committed the Sox’s lone error. But when anybody replaces Dunn this season, it turns out to be for offensive purposes as well. The weary Nathan grooved one, and Lilli-B whacked it over the wall in left.
The Sox had hustled themselves into a four-run inning and put the game away. The disgusted faithful made for the exits, or maybe the wild rice soup. The final was 6-1.
The Big Breeze went into the series with the Twins hitting .167, but that's a hard mark to maintain. On the week he went 1 for 17 (a single); now he's at .161. He picked up seven more whiffs, which gives him 145. That puts him almost within striking (out) distance of Dave Nicholson's club record 175. And there's more than a month-and-a-half to go.
The rumor in Minnesota was that the Twins, who sorely need power, had offered the Sox a case of lefse for Dunn, but that Sox GM Kenny Williams was insisting on two cases. I'm all for the trade. We'll be the piranhas, and let them have the lumberjack.