Nick Blackburn had a heck of a start last night, going 7 innings and allowing just 1 run – a run that scored on his wild pitch – from 5 hits. He walked 1 and struck out 6 and frankly there’s nothing more you can ask from a kid. Matt Guerrier relieved him only to give up a single and an intentional walk, although he did strike out Vladimir Guerrero. He was pulled, with the bases loaded, in favor of Dennys Reyes. It took our lefty specialist just one pitch to induce a double play, ending the threat. Pat Neshek needed just 8 pitches, in his 2nd appearance of the year, to retire the side in order in the 9th inning.
4 double plays. At least 4 lead off guys get on base (it might be 5 if Nick Punto lead off the inning that he got a single in) and none of them score. In fact, the team had just 4 hits. 2 walks, a stolen base, and a pick off/caught stealing, oh and also 5 bunt attempts – all by Carlos Gomez – but they couldn’t do anything else. Honestly, I’m going to get real sick of watching Gomez attempt to bunt this season. Whether he’s successful or not, let the kid swing the bat. Right away he was in the hole 0-2 and struck out on the third pitch in the first inning. In the 9th, with a runner on first, he again attempted to bunt but the first two went foul. The third one (yes, he bunted with 2 strikes) hit his foot when he was out of the batter’s box, resulting in an out. Brendan Harris had gone 0-for-3 so Joe Mauer came in with Matt Tolbert, a late replacement for Adam Everett at SS (family issues), on first base in the 9th with one out. Tolbert didn’t attempt to steal in Gomez’s at-bat and either was lacking confidence or wasn’t given the go-ahead to try it with Mauer at the plate. Either way, a much-expected double play happened when Mauer grounded weakly to the second baseman. Yet, girls will still love him. I don’t have the patience to delve deep into split statistics like Gleeman does, but with whatever I could find it would probably prove that Mike Lamb or Jason Kubel would’ve been better bets to pinch-hit for Mauer. Ok, so I just made that up and it could be true that Lamb and Kubel are the worst pinch-hitters ever, I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that Mauer is a career .200 hitter when he pinch-hits (3-15). I could write a book filled with me rambling on about why Mauer is not the player every 12-year old girl cracks him up to be, but I won’t because how many people would want to buy it?
Maybe I shouldn’t be blaming Mauer. If I were a finger-pointing man, maybe I’d turn to our manager Ron Gardenhire. After all, isn’t he the one to tell Gomez to bunt with 2 strikes and to tell Kubel and Lamb to hit the showers early while Mauer heads for the on-deck circle? It’s just too tough, as a blogger, a person who can be stereotyped as a naysayer, to not criticize somebody after the hometown team’s first-time starter gives up just a run through 7 innings only to get the short end of the 1-0 stick.
For what it’s worth, in 105 pinch-hits between 2005-2007, Mike Lamb has 26 hits (2 doubles, 2 triples, 5 homers) for an average of .248 while Kubel is 4-25 in the same timeframe for a BA of .160 (all 4 of those hits came in his 11 pinch-hit at-bats in 2007).
Here are some pictures from the game I went to:
Kevin Slowey starts in today’s untelevised game, beginning at 12:10.