Depending on who you ask, the Twins did themselves no good by not making any trades before the deadline. Some wanted a shutdown reliever and were willing to get rid of above-average center fielder Denard Span in the process. Others wanted to move one of Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, or Delmon Young and try to get the best selection of prospects in return. The problem lies in the team’s position to make a late playoff run. They are in limbo of sorts, not far enough back to sell everyone but not close enough to buy a big name guy. Either way, GM Bill Smith is right by not making a move unless it makes sense. No trades at the deadline is better than making the wrong trade(s) at the deadline; anyone remember Ramos for Matt Capps? Yeah, that.

 

The team is now in California to face the Angels, and their first starter will be ace Ervin Santana, who threw a no-hitter in his last start.

Span is also back with the team, with Luke Hughes being sent down again. Lineups have not been posted yet but I would suspect that Span will lead off and Ben Revere would get the day off.

Sure it’s a cliché title but after Joe Mauer‘s first home run of the season that came in the 1st inning with 2 outs, the Twins never looked back and sailed to a relatively stress-free victory. (more…)

It was another high-scoring game, this time with more suspense, that thankfully ended with the Twins on top. For a minute there I thought we were headed for another snoozer in which the Rangers of Texas (no relation to Walker, the Texas Ranger) would rack up a giant score against our fragile pitching staff.

Luckily, the Twins clawed back and slowly but surely gained the victory to remain 7 games back of Detroit. Minnesota actually led Texas 3-2 going into the bottom of the 4th, but the Rangers put up a 5-spot in the frame to take a 7-3 lead.  (more…)

 

Umm would be a good way to describe that picture, as in “Umm…why is #5 throwing from the mound?” Umm is also used in place of an actual title, because it’s tough to find words to describe the Twins game from last night. The end result: 27 hits and 20 runs for the Rangers. 11 hits and 6 runs for your hometown team. The Twins committed 3 errors if you look at the boxscore, but one can make an argument that there was actually 4 or even 5.

 

Offensive highlights for the Twins would be Jason Kubel‘s homer in the 8th inning. He absolutely crushed it, and also had a solid single up the middle. It’s no secret he’s my favorite Twin and he continues to be a consistent hitter in the middle of the order. Jason Repko, Delmon Young, and Danny Valencia each added two hits as well, with Young and Valencia getting a double and a single. Although Tsuyoshi Nishioka went hitless, he didn’t strike out! You can see I’m grasping for something here.

 

Pitching highlights for the Twins: ________________

You can see I left that space blank, because there really isn’t a highlight. At all. The bright spot of the game only happened because the team was looking at a 15-run deficit with one inning to go. So the manager did the only sensible thing and turned to super utility player Michael Cuddyer to pitch. And, quite frankly, he pitched well…for an All-Star right fielder/first baseman. Sure he walked a guy and gave up two hits, but nobody scored (one of just two innings in which the Rangers failed to score). But the leadoff batter hit a double to the gap, and if Alexi Casilla could have fielded the throw cleanly, the runner probably would have been tagged out at second. The next batter “singled” into shallow left center, even though the ball only dropped due to a communication error by Nishi and Repko. Unfortunately there were no swing-and-misses, at all, by the Rangers, which is surprising considering that Cuddyer’s sinker/cutter/fastball had more movement on them than most of the other pitches thrown by our professional pitchers. I think the best part of it all is that Cuddyer came to bat in the top of the 9th, as a pitcher, and reached on an error.

 

The simple fact is, Carl Pavano needs to go deep in the ballgame tonight for our Twins to even have a chance. I’m sure long reliever Anthony Swarzak may be available this time around, but we can’t keep relying on a bullpen that boasts the league’s second-worst ERA.

View Cuddyer’s entire pitching performance here, if you’d like.

After ending the first half of the season with a 9-3 record, getting a rejuvenated Joe Nathan as the team’s closer, and looking forward to Delmon Young and Jason Kubel to make a return, it was easy for Minnesota Twins fans to be positive after the All-Star Break. And by starting the second half with 12 straight games at home and against division rivals, it was an especially appealing way to continue the surge towards first place. But instead of gaining ground, the team went 5-6 and actually lost some ground on the Detroit Tigers. The starting pitching has been inconsistent, our relievers have actually been acceptable, but some of the spark that the team once had seems to have vanished.

Before yesterday’s game, in which he went 0-for-3 with a walk, leadoff man Ben Revere had only reached base three times in his last 28 at-bats. He currently sports a .249 batting average, which truthfully could be very acceptable for a CF that plays good defense and can steal some bases, except…to go along with that he has an on-base percentage of just .287. I do believe that he gets quite a bit of slack for being a rookie, and can only imagine that his plate discipline and ability to get on base will improve with more experience. With his current pace, he’d draw between 20-25 walks in a full season (close to Delmon’s numbers). And that is not acceptable for a leadoff hitter. I still think Denard Span is our leadoff hitter upon his return, and could see Revere going down to the 9-hole because that keeps the speed at top and bottom of the lineup, like Gardy likes, but also allows him to generally be in less-important situations and can give him some time to keep improving. Speaking of the 9-hole…

 

Tsuyoshi Nishioka had a career year last season in Japan, but I was still very excited for his arrival. Playing in just 6 games before the middle of June due to a broken leg, he didn’t get the chance to start out slow like a lot of Twins players typically do each season. When he came back from injury is when the Twins started winning more games and his production both on offense and defense became vital, especially with his infield counterpart Alexi Casilla tearing it up. Instead, Nishioka has been a major disappointment, both offensively and defensively. Some have questioned whether he should even be playing shortstop, opting for the more casual second base instead. Nishi is hitting a respectable .270 in the month of July, but like Revere has struggles getting on base with his .293 OBP for the season. But the alarming statistic is that after yesterday’s hitless performance, Tsuyoshi now has struck out 31 times on the year while amassing just 30 hits. This is a very alarming number that suggests Nishi hasn’t been able to get solid reads on MLB pitchers yet. But the question becomes, How long will Gardy stick with him? Earlier indications pointed to a very long leash, but with Trevor Plouffe performing superbly in AAA and getting the call up, does he deserve a chance to start again? His possible talent goes mostly wasted by sitting on the bench. It’s a tough situation for Twins fans to deal with, as well. He hasn’t been very solid defensively like he was supposed to be. I understand that Ichiro and Nishi are very different players, but the whole “coming to play MLB from Japan transitional phase” thing can’t apply to our 2B. Ichiro had a .350 batting average in his first year stateside, and although that was his average while playing in Japan, Nishioka’s past certainly indicates that he would be a better hitter than he has been thus far.

 

One of the reasons it was important to get off to a good start in the second half, other than the obvious AL Central matchups, is that now they head west for a 10-game road trip in which they take on the Rangers, Athletics, and Angels. Although the Twins have beaten the Rangers 3 out of 4 times this season, Texas sports a 14-3 record dating back to before the All-Star Break and have some absolute mashers for hitters. The Angels have a fantastic pitching staff that I feel could cause some big issues for our lineup, and Oakland is…well, Oakland.

 

At any rate, I predict a split in the series against Texas. I think Nick Blackburn will give us a good performance tonight and that Brian Duensing will rebound and get a W on Wednesday night. Carl Pavano could be outpitched by All Star C.J. Wilson and Scott Baker may struggle pitching outside of Target Field. Only time will tell.

After the Twins won the last two games against KC, they laid an egg against Cleveland in the first two games of that series. Highlights from the first game, which ended with a score of 5-2:

Anthony Swarzak turning in a quality start, going 6 innings and giving up 4 total runs, but only 3 were earned.

Jose Mijares went two innings without giving up any hits. That is a very encouraging performance based on a few of the stats, but when you dig down deeper he threw 35 total pitches and just 19 were balls. He has struggled with control this year and pitching coach Rick Anderson really needs to work with Jose to get him back to his effective self.

Michael Cuddyer hit his team-leading 14th homer of the year, although it came in the bottom of the ninth inning when the Twins were already down 5-0. I still think he’s above his career averages for hitting, and will come back down to earth at some point this season. If that ends up being the case, the team’s win/loss record during his hot streak will be crucial for their final standing in the Central division.

Probably the only lowlight would be Matt Capps coming into the 9th (again, with the Twins down by 5 runs), and giving up a homerun to a pinch-hitter who has a .331 slugging percentage for the season. He really needs to start having outings where he is effective, to prove he can come back to be a successful reliever for us at some point.

 

The second game was a little more exciting, with the two teams actually tied at 2 runs apiece after the 6th inning. But Cleveland scored 2 runs in both the 7th and 9th innings to win 6-3.

 

Ben Revere had a forgettable day at the plate, combining to go 0-for-9 with no walks but also no strikeouts. He is still a very exciting player on the basepaths as well as in the field, so days like that at the plate just have to be accepted. Not everyone can go 3-for-4 in both games of a doubleheader like catcher/1B Joe Mauer did. He had a run-saving defensive play at first base in the first game, and also threw out a runner from behind the plate in the second game. I really like his defense at first but it’s obvious he’s the team’s catcher. I’m just happy he was able to play both games in full.

 

Scott Diamond, who got called up just yesterday, made his first Major League start in the second game of the doubleheader. He actually pitched pretty well I think. His breaking balls had good movement and although his fastball seemed to top out at 89 or 90 mph, he walked 2 and struck out 1 but most important is that he went 6 and 1/3 innings and gave up just 3 earned runs. He kept the team in the game and that’s what mattered most.

 

A lot of bloggers and fans have been clamoring to get pitcher Chuck James back up with the Major League club, and they all got his wish yesterday when he pitched the final inning in the second game. He showed fans why the Twins were possibly hesitant to recall him, as he threw 30 pitches to record all 3 outs and allowed 3 hits, 2 runs, and also committed a balk in the process. He doesn’t throw faster than 88 or 89 mph, has little to no movement on his breaking pitches, and really has no reason to be on the team in the first place. He’s been out of the Majors since he gave up 30 runs in 29 and 2/3 innings in 2008 with the Braves. At this point the bullpen is in such shambles that another bad pitcher coming into relief hardly even matters at this point.

 

Francisco Liriano tries to right the ship tonight in the third game against Cleveland.

Of course I time the re-boot of my blog to match up with me going on vacation for a week with very spotty internet service. I’ll do my best to watch most of the games and get some decent feedback but I can’t make any guarantees.

The Twins were able to win the third and fourth games of the KC series, escaping with two 4-3 wins with their “new” closer Joe Nathan. It was announced before the game on Saturday that Nathan had replaced Matt Capps as the team’s closer. I support the decision, trying to make it well-known that I was not a fan of Capps anymore. However I wanted to see Glen Perkins get a shot at the role instead. Some people are saying that Perkins can’t be the closer because that would leave only Jose Mijares as the team’s lefty specialist. The problem with that, is I feel like Gardenhire doesn’t properly use “lefty specialists” anyway. But Perk was solid in relief again in today’s game, using 15 pitches to retire the side with a strikeout. Joe Nathan picked up his second save in as many days, using just 9 pitches for his 5th save of the year. Alex Burnett came into the game in the 7th to relieve Brian Duensing. Burnett recorded two outs; using just two pitches in the process.

 

Jim Thome‘s 596th dinger of the year was the savior for Minnesota, a 3-run shot that put the team up by a 4-1 score at the time. The top of the lineup did the team a big solid as well, with Ben Revere, Alexi Casilla, and Joe Mauer combining to go 6-for-10 with a walk and an RBI, and each of the three guys scored a run too.

 

The team plays a doubleheader Monday against Cleveland, with Anthony Swarzak and Scott Diamond getting the starts.

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