Minnesota Twins’ Andrew Albers becomes first Saskatchewan pitcher to win MLB game in 32 years, after nearly tossing shutout in debut

The Eh Game

As Andrew Albers acknowledged, if his Major League Baseball debut should endure as his greatest day as a professional pitcher, that wouldn't be the worst thing. On Tuesday, the Minnesota Twins left-hander, amid a week where the Alex Rodriguez-Bud Selig standoff is dominating headlines, authored one of those restorative moments that baseball delivers every so often, in spite of itself.

The North Battleford, Sask., native's path to pitching in the majors has included recovering from Tommy John surgery, and a spell where he was out of affiliated baseball and flung for the Can-Am League's Quebec Capitales. Albers, who scattered four hits across 8⅓ scoreless innings in a 7-0 Twins win over the Kansas City Royals, is also just two seasons removed from winning a spot in the Twins system after coming to spring training as a bottom-of-the-food-chain non-roster invitee. Call this Pollyannaish, but it should be a reminder of what's appealing about the sport. It was arguably the most dominant pitching debut in Twins history, as he didn't let a runner past first base until the ninth inning.

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"It was special to go out and have that kind of performance in your debut," Albers said. "Unfortunately, it's probably not going to get much better from there."

Albers whiffed countryman George Kottaras, the Royals catcher, for his first MLB strikeout. Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, of New Westminister, B.C., also hit a home run in support of Albers. Third baseman Jamey Carroll, who also has ties to Canada (the now defunct Triple-A Ottawa Lynx retired his No. 3 after he played there in the late '90s), also chipped in with some deft fielding.

Albers is the first Saskatchewan native to play in the majors since outfielder Terry Puhl wrapped up a 15-year career in 1991. He is the first pitcher from the province to earn credit for a MLB win since Reggie Cleveland, who played from 1969-81. Coincidentally, Cleveland's final career win while with member of the 1981 Milwaukee Brewers also came against a team whose starting nine that day included a Canadian, as the right-hander got the W against the Oakland Athletics and B.C. native Dave McKay. Neat coincidence.

Perhaps this was fated. Albers was born Oct. 6, 1985, the same day that Hall of Famer Phil Niekro earned his 300th career win on Canadian soil by beating the Toronto Blue Jays. Albers is not going to reach that milestone, but just getting one in the record book is a triumph, on any scale.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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