MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Some wondered if Jason Kubel would ever make it back from a horrific knee injury that kept him out of action all last season.
Here’s the answer.
“It’s all starting to come back now,” said the rookie Kubel, who is hitting .444 (12-for-27) with two homers and eight RBIs in his last six games.
This one was as classic as a game in mid-June can get.
Kubel’s homer put a thrilling ending on a game in which Curt Schilling and Johan Santana dueled to a standstill for eight innings. Each gave up just one solo homer and completely befuddled the opposing hitters, just as everyone expected coming in.
“In the second or third inning I turned to Bill (Hasselman) and said ‘we might have to win this game 1-0,”’ Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Kubel followed with a shot that just got over the big baggie in right field and sent the crowd into a frenzy. Kubel was mobbed at home plate by his teammates, including Santana, who struck out a season-high 13.
“We have high hopes for this young man,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s been putting a lot of good swings on the ball.”
Cuddyer also homered for the Twins, who got an outstanding effort from Santana. He scattered five hits over eight innings and struck out the first five hitters he faced, with a homer to Jason Varitek in the seventh his only blemish.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen his stuff that good,” Gardenhire said. “It was a battle to the end.”
While nowhere near as overpowering as Santana, Schilling was just as effective against the light-hitting Twins. Schilling’s pitches darted in and out of the strike zone, frustrating a young Twins lineup that is still learning how to approach the best of the big league pitchers.
Schilling gave up six hits, one run and struck out five in eight innings, but left with the game tied 1-1 and missed a chance at becoming the majors’ first 10-game winner.
“The important thing for me was I didn’t get caught up in what he was doing,” Schilling said. “I’m not trying to get him out.”
He can’t be too disappointed with this effort. Schilling gave everything he had in a brilliant showdown with Santana.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game, there’s no doubt,” Santana said of Schilling. “I always get excited to face a guy like that. But at the same time, they have to face me and our team.”
Santana struck out six of the first seven, before Trot Nixon doubled with one out in the third. He got Ortiz swinging in the fourth for his 1,000th career strikeout, prompting a standing ovation from the adoring home crowd.
The K’s just kept coming. The Venezuelan lefty struck out the side in the fifth, getting Nixon to flail weakly at a devastating changeup to end the inning.
“It gets to a point where you think one mistake is going to change the game,” Santana said of his matchup with Schilling.
And he didn’t just strike people out. After Crisp fanned in each of his first two at-bats, he laid a bunt attempt down the third-base line. Santana leapt off the mound, pounced on the ball near the foul line, wheeled and fired a strike to Morneau at first for the out.
Then in the eighth, Nixon and Gonzalez had back-to-back one-out singles. But Santana stabbed Crisp’s one-hopper back to the mound and started a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning. He pumped his fist and hollered as he strode back to the dugout, urging his hitters to come through.
They finally did in dramatic fashion in the 12th. Kubel’s high drive wasn’t exactly a no-doubter.
“In the beginning, we didn’t think it was going to be a home run,” Santana said. “But hey, you can’t do any better. It was out. We won the game. That’s all that matters. It’s good for him to get all the confidence back.”
Ortiz, who spent his first six seasons in Minnesota, was cheered heartily by the Twins fans when he came to the plate in the first inning. … Crisp fouled a pitch off in the third inning that got stuck in a speaker along the third baseline and never came down. … Schilling surpassed 3,000 career innings.