When Pierluigi met Duncan

What happens when soccer’s most famous referee meets English football’s most infamous hard-man? In this case, Pierluigi Collina disallowed a Duncan Ferguson goal that would have kept Everton’s Championship League hopes alive. Collina is a great ref, but this particular call (apparently for an alleged foul by Marcus Bent, not Ferguson) was questionable, to say the least. Nonetheless, there can be no doubt that Everton’s opponent, Villareal, was the better side over the two matches. Credit to Everton for playing with enough intensity (and a good enough goalkeeper) to keep the outcome in doubt until just before the end.
I had wavered on doing a post on the Minnesota Twins’ thriller against the Chicago White Sox last night, but seeing Deacon’s soccer post put me over the top. The game pitted the Twins’ Johan Santana, last year’s AL Cy Young winner, against Freddy Garcia, one of the Sox’ aces. The pitching duel that ensued may not have been the greatest of all time, but it was certainly the greatest ever pitched by two guys from Venezuela.
Two weeks ago, the Twins had pretty much been given up for dead, mostly due to their inability to hit. But now they’re streaking, having won, I believe, nine of their last eleven. And Santana has regained the untouchable form he showed in the second half of 2004. The atmosphere last night was electric, with more than 30,000 crazed Twins fans in the house. Santana was great, pitching a three-hit shutout through eight innings. But Garcia was even better. He took a no-hitter into the bottom of the eighth.
Up to that point, three outfielders (two Twins and a Sock) had collided violently with the outfield wall, in all three cases holding on to the ball. At least one of the catches was a game-saver. So no one could gain an advantage until, in the bottom of the eighth, Jacque Jones pounded a long home run over the center field wall. Joe Nathan came on to get the save–he hasn’t been scored on since the All-Star break–and the Twins had a 1-0 victory in a game in which Jones’s homer was their only hit.
Playoff fever: it’s a wonderful thing. The Twins still have a long way to go, but it’s nice to have an ace who can’t be hit in September:


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