Pittsburgh wins 9-2
WP: Zane Smith (9-2)
LP: Kyle Lohse (0-2)
Minnesota came into the series with serious question marks in their rotation. Johan Santana had been the best pitcher for most of the KOD season and Francisco Liriano has been very good but overused. Which left the likes of Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse, Brad Radke, Carlos Silva and Brad Radke as those being looked at for multiple starts in the World Series. Pittsburgh. on the other side of the field, was in much better shape with a solid group of dependable starters to turn to. Game 1 showed the glaring differences in options as the Twins threw Lohse up against tough lefty Zane Smith. Smith was dominant in his complete game performance and the Pirate bats made sure that the Pittsburgh fans left Three Rivers with plenty of optimism for the rest of the series. Two runs in the 1st and the 3rd gave Pittsburgh some early breathing room and then a huge 5 run 6th inning put the game away. Facing reliever Matt Guerrier, the Pirates used a walk and 5 hits consecutively to do the damage. The biggest hits being a 2 RBI double by Andy Van Slyke and a 2 RBI triple by Gary Varsho. The Pirates had only 2 players (Slaught & Van Slyke) with 2 hit games but 3 with multi RBI games (Van Slyke,Varsho and Wehner)
Pittsburgh wins 7-3
WP: John Smiley (7-4)
LP: Boof Bonser (5-4)
SV: Bill Landrum (5)
HR: Andy Van Slyke 2(6,7)
MVP: John Smiley (WP, 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K)
John Smiley was never in trouble in this one and Andy Van Slyke made sure that his pitcher never felt the added weight of a close game. Van Slyke went deep in the bottom of the 1st for the first of his 2 home runs to get Pittsburgh off to a good start. The Pirate OF then repeated this in his 2nd at bat with another 2 run homer off of Bonser. The Pirate bats did not stop there as they welcomed reliever Jesse Crain to the game in the 7th with 3 more runs thanks to an error, a couple hits and a couple RBI ground outs. The only bright spot for the Twins came in the 9th when the Pirates brought reliever Bob Patterson into the 7-0 game. Patterson gave up a lead off single to Luis Castillo but then struck out big bats, Mauer and Morneau. The pesky Twins did not fold though as Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer singled to get the Twins on the board. An error on 3rd baseman John Wehner, his 4th in less than 2 games, followed by a single by Rondell White made the game 7-3 with the bases loaded and the game tying run in Jason Bartlett coming to the plate. The Pirates turned to closer Bill Landrum to face Bartlett with the game on the line. Landrum was up to the task as he got the Twin shortstop to ground to short for the game ending out. Van Slyke (2-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI) was the leader of the 12 hit attack for the Pirates that sent them off to Minnesota with the 2-0 series lead.
Pittsburgh wins 5-1
WP: Randy Tomlin (7-1)
LP: Johan Santana (9-3)
HR: Barry Bonds (9), Steve Buechele (4), Jay Bell (6)
As the series travelled to Minnesota, the Twins fans finally felt they had the upper hand in the starting pitcher matchup. After a run in the 3rd thanks to a Lloyd McClendon error at 1st and a Luis Castillo RBI single, the Metrodome was buzzing with confidence. Santana, for his part, was cruising through the Pirate order that had carved up his teammates in games 1 and 2. It wasn't until the 6th inning that the mood in the dome changed. After a leadoff K of Jose Lind, Santana gave up a shot to Barry Bonds to tie up the game at 1. Steve Buechele followed Bonds with another shot and in a matter of seconds that comfortable 1-0 lead became a 2-1 deficit. Randy Tomlin never lost focus pitching in the shadow of Santana, and the 2 homers seemed to give him an extra push as he allowed just 2 more hits over the next 4 innings to make sure the 1 unearned run the Twins got in the 3rd was the only ones they would get all day. The Pirates bats continued to get to Santana as Jay Bell went deep in the 7th and Bobby Bonilla doubled off reliever Pat Neshek in the 8th to score Santana's last 2 base runners. The Twin faithful filed out of the Metrodome not only knowing they trailed 3-0 in the series but also with the realization that they had just seen their ace outpitched.
Minnesota wins 7-1
WP: Francisco Liriano (7-4)
LP: Doug Drabek (4-6)
HR: Steve Buechele (5), Torii Hunter (9)
MVP: Franisco Liriano (WP, 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K)
The desperation of the Twins was evident as soon as the starters headed out to the bullpen before the game to get loosened up. Minnesota had been non committal after game 3 as to who would be getting the ball to start game 4. Carlos Silva and Matt Garza were both rumored to be in the running. But 1 hour before game time, it was young left hander Francisco Liriano heading out to get ready for the potential elimination game. Liriano had been shut down near the end of the regular season and despite being told he would only be used sparingly in the playoffs out the pen, the Twins had found themselves needing him for multiple key starts in their playoff run. Liriano didn't show any sort of fatigue in this one as he pitched 7 solid innings and didn't allow the Pirated on the board until the 6th. Doug Drabek matched zeroes with Liriano until the 5th when the Twins scored 4 led by a double by Joe Mauer, a 2 RBI triple by Jason Bartlett and an RBI single by Nick Punto. Torii Hunyer added an insurance run in the 6th with a solo home run, then 3 Twin relievers combined to pitch the final 2 innings to close out the game. The Twins finally found themselves on the board in the series with win #1 but the pitching matchups going forward still looked tough on paper.
Game 5 @ Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA
Minnesota wins 2-1
WP: Joe Nathan (4-2)
LP: Stan Belinda (5-4)
HR: Rondell White (1)
As we headed to game 5, this series was still looking for its signature game. With game 1 starter Zane Smith going for Pittsburgh, Minnesota called on Brad Radke. Pittsburgh jumped on Radke in the 1st with a run when an Andy Van Slyke double plated Orlando Merced. But, Radke (5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 K) would rebound to silence the Pirate bats the rest of his time on the mound. Smith (7.2 IP, 10 H, 0 ER, 1 K) would be equally stingy for the Bucs benefiting from 3 HUGE double plays in the early going to quell Twin rallies. In the 5th though, it would be that same defense that allowed the Twins to tie up the game at 1. Jay Bell booted a routine grounder by Nick Punto and the next batter, Mike Redmond, delivered an RBI single to score Punto and even the score. After that each team threatened but could not push across anything until the Twins came to bat in the bottom of the 9th. Stan Belinda had finished out the 8th in relief of Zane Smith and he continued on the hill for Pittsburgh. Rondell White was due up for the Twins to start the inning. Minnesota thought long and hard about pinch hitting for White but the options were not much better and Rondell was sent up to get things started. But instead he decided to end it with 1 swing of the bat, sending a 1-1 pitch 399 feet to left center field much to the delight of the sold out Metrodome crowd. Amazingly, it was the 1st homer of the KOD season for White, but it could not have come at a better time. The wining pitcher on the night was Joe Nathan. Nathan, normally a 3 out closer, was brought in to the tie game in the 8th inning with the Twins season in the balance. Nathan was outstanding, allowing just 1 hit and 1 walk over the 2 innings, picking up his 4th win of the season. The Twins had little time to celebrate the huge win though as they needed to catch a flight back to Pittsburgh with game 6 and 7 looming. The 21st edition of the KOD World Series finally had an instant classic of a game and the series which looked to possibly be over in 4, was headed to atleast a game 6.
Minnesota wins 11-4
WP: Matt Guerrier (1-0)
LP: John Smiley (7-5)
HR: Justin Morneau (19), Jay Bell (7)
Game MVP: Michael Cuddyer (3-5, 2 2B, 2 R, 4 RBI)
The Twins might have felt a great rush of adrenaline following a big game 5 win, but handing the ball to Boof Bonser to face John Smiley has a way of deflating a team very quickly. This was a pitching rematch from game 2 and the Pirates had dominated that game from start to finish. The Twins looked for a different outcome in this and started great pushing across a run in the 1st inning. Singles by Nick Punto and Mike Redmond followed by a Justin Morneau sac fly got the Twins on the board first. That lead was short lived though as the Pirates would get to Bonser in the 2nd. It was clear that Bonser's arm was just about shot from the accumulation of regular season and post season innings he had been asked to throw. Bobby Bonilla singled, Mike LaValliere walked and Jay Bell deposited Bonser's 2nd pitch into the left field bleachers for a 3 run HR to quickly put the Bucs on top 3-1. If the Twins offense felt added pressure, they did not show it by bouncing back for 4 big runs in the top of the 3rd inning. The Twins relied on the big bats of Cuddyer ( 2 run 2B) and Morneau (2 run HR) to reclaim their lead and gain a little confidence against Smith. Another offensive outburst in the 5th was led by another RBI double by Cuddyer and an RBI single by Redmond. Matt Guerrier (WP, 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 3 K) was outstanding in relief of Bonser (1 IP, 4 H, 3 R) and allowed the Twins offense to take over the game. In all, the Twins bullpen threw 8 innings, allowing just 4 hits and 1 run, while fanning 6 batters. The Twins 17 hit attack was led by Cuddyer and Morneau (3-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R).
Game 6 @ Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA
Minnesota wins 6-3
WP: Johan Santana (10-3)
LP: Randy Tomlin (7-2)
SV: Joe Nathan (21)
HR: Michael Cuddyer (8), Bobby Bonilla (5)
Johan Santana had been given the ball in big games throughout the playoffs for the Minnesota Twins and despite pitching well in most, he had yet to close out a series for his team. This deciding game would be different for the dominant southpaw. Santana (6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 6 K) pitched extremely well en route to his KOD leading 10th victory. His Twins teammates handed him a 3 run lead with a rally in the 3rd inning led by RBI hits by Cuddyer, Hunter and Bartlett. A solo home run by Bobby Bonilla in the 5th gave the home town Pirates a little hope, but Santana wouldn't let them put together any sort of extended attack. Cuddyer then made sure that his team would complete its improbable 4 game comeback in the series by driving in a run in the 7th followed by a 2 run HR in the 9th. The Pirates would score single runs in the 7th and 9th and did threaten in the 9th. With a run in to make it 6-3, the Pirates put 2 on wuth 2 outs against Joe Nathan. Orlando Merced, representing the tying run, came to the plate with Barry Bonds on 1st and Gary Varsho at 3rd. Nathan, who had entered the game in the 8th and had thrown over 40 pitches, was left in to face Merced. Unfortunately for the Pittsburgh faithful, Nathan overpowered Merced with 3 straight fastballs and the extinguishing any hope of a comeback. Nathan's 21st KOD save eliminated the Pirates leaving the 2006 Minnesota Twins as the last team standing in the tournament.
Justin Morneau 8-28, 3 2B, 1 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI
Torii Hunter 8-26, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI
Johan Santana 2 G, 1-1, 14 IP, 14 K, 4.50 ERA, .226 BAA
Joe Nathan 2 G, 1W 1SV, 4 IP, 3 K, 2.25 ERA, .154 BAA
Jesse Crain 4 G, 0W 0 SV, 4.2 IP, 2 K, 1.93 ERA, .167 BAA
Barry Bonds 9-29, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 6 R, 3 RBI
Zane Smith 2 G, 1-0, 16.2 IP, 8 K, 1.08 ERA, .242 BAA
Randy Tomlin 2 G, 1-1, 14 IP, 11 K, 1.93 ERA, .212 BAA