June 2008


Just look at the very last line of yesterday’s post. In short, it said because the opposing pitcher the Twins were going to face had such good numbers, it means Minnesota will win (they faced 4 Cy Young winners in 5 games and won all of them). Well, they won, and Kevin Slowey looked like a future Cy Young winner, throwing a 109-pitch complete game shutout. He only allowed three hits, one of them a double, but struck out 8 and walked none. In fact, in Slowey’s last 4 starts he has a 0.93 ERA; that’s 3 earned runs in 29 innings pitched.

 

Offensively the Twins had a pretty good night, tallying 5 runs and also getting a team cycle. Joe Mauer and Alexi Casilla each had doubles (although it looked like Casilla’s should have been ruled an error), Carlos Gomez hustled for his 4th triple of the year, and Delmon Young hit his first homer in the Metrodome as a Twin. Mauer, standing on second, would score on a two-out single by Jason Kubel. Casilla’s double with two outs drove in a run. Gomez’s triple that scored Brian Buscher came with two outs in the inning. Delmon’s golf swing drove in two with two outs in the 6th.

 

Do you notice the pattern? Every single run the team scored came with two outs in the inning. The Twins are first in all of baseball with a ridiculous .312 batting average with runners in scoring position. Change that situation into runners in scoring position with two outs and the Twins still sit in second place, hitting at a .277 clip in such spots, still .013 better than the third place team. In close and late situations (defined as the 7th inning or later, with the batting team down by run one, or tied, or at least with the potential tying run in the on-deck circle) they are tied for first in both leagues with the Yankees, at .281. These stats are the reason the team has won 3 games more than its runs scored and runs against suggest it should have, and also why the Twins are just 1.5 games behind the White Sox at the start of July.

 

As fun as it has been to watch the team play so well, the next games will be a true determiner of what we’re made of. And when I say “the next games”, I mean the entire month of July. 6 games at home against Detroit and Cleveland and then 7 games on the road against Boston and Detroit. The All-Star Break gives us 4 days off and then the team comes home for 3 games against Texas. A 6-game road trip follows with stops in New York to play the Yankees and Ohio to play the Indians. The month ends with a 4-game series against the White Sox, played in the Dome. A total of 26 games will be played; I would consider winning 15 or more of those games a success. Does anybody agree? Maybe disagree? Please let me know in the comments section.

 

Michael Cuddyer has gone to the DL with another finger injury, but it’s not the same one that bothered him earlier in the year. Denard Span has come up to replace him and, with interleague play over, I expect Span to get the brunt of starts in right while Kubel slides back into the DH spot. I also expect Buscher to continue starting at third, at this point he pretty much has to play his way out of that spot.

 

Glen Perkins pitches tonight to start the Tigers-Twins series, the game will start at 7:10.

Although Livan Hernandez did quite well after the third inning, the hole he put us in was too big to climb out of, even for a team on the roll like Minnesota. Livan finished with 7 innings pitched, he allowed 7 hits and 4 earned runs (1 was unearned due to his errant pickoff throw). He walked 4 and tied a season-high with 5 strikeouts. Boof Bonser allowed just a single and a walk in 2 innings of relief.

 

The only offensive highlight was a 2-out, Jason Kubel homer in the bottom of the 9th. Seriously, that’s it. Delmon Young and Brendan Harris each had singles but those were the only hits the team got. Kubel also had 2 walks and Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer also each got a base on balls, to no avail.

 

Today’s game starts at 1:05 with Kevin Slowey facing off against Ben Sheets, who currently sports a 2.59 ERA in 104 and 1/3 innings pitched this season. That pretty much means the Twins will demolish him, right?

Between a first-inning homer by Alexi Casilla, four home runs allowed by Twins starter Nick Blackburn, and Brian Buscher‘s continued success at the plate, there were enough turns in this game to hold its own against a season of the Sopranos.

 

After jumping out to that 1-0 early lead, Blackburn allowed back-to-back homers in the second. A run in the third and fourth innings put the Twins up 3-2, but Blackburn allowed two 2-run longballs in the next inning to put the team in a 6-3 hole.

Have no fear, the surging Twins are here. A sac fly by Jason Kubel and RBI single by Delmon Young had the team within one.

 

Michael Cuddyer was thrown out at the plate in the 7th inning in what seemed to be a boneheaded play on the bases. With runners on first and second, 2 outs, and without a hit in the game, Buscher poked a single to left field that scored Kubel and tied the game.

 

An unlikely hero stepped up with two outs in the bottom of the 8th: Joe Mauer. He clunked his third home run of the year to straightaway center field, even showing a little emotion with a fist pump as he rounded first.

 

Joe Nathan, although scaring me a bit by giving up two singles, didn’t allow any runs for his 22nd save of the year.

 

Blackburn lasted just 4 and 2/3 innings, allowing 9 hits, 6 runs, no walks and 5 strikeouts. Brian Bass did a great job, allowing just one single in 2 and 1/3 innings of work. Matt Guerrier picked up his 4th win of the season.

 

Casilla was 2-for-2 before leaving the game with a strained middle finger. Nick Punto replaced him but Casilla is expected to be back before the end of this series.

Mauer and Kubel each led the team with 2 runs scored while Delmon had 3 singles and didn’t strand any runners on base. Punto was the only Twin to not collect a hit.

 

Livan Hernandez pitches tonight in a 6:10-start game. The Brew Crew were 8-2 in their last 10 games heading into last night, and they have just one less win than the Twins with the same amount of losses. This leads me to believe that they’re still a force to reckon with, and the team’s current 10-game winning streak may be in serious jeopardy tonight.

I first want to point out that I made a mistake in my last post, erroneously saying Greg Maddux was a left-handed pitcher, but Nick Nelson was kind enough to remind me that Mad Dog is actually a righty.

 

My prediction of a low-scoring game didn’t exactly come true, with the Twins scoring nine runs, seven of those against Maddux (only six earned). Glen Perkins allowed three runs in just five innings of work, but he pitched well enough to get his fourth win of the season. It took him 91 pitches, with only 58 of those going in for strikes. He gave up four singles, a double, and a triple, and he also had two walks. But he fanned two batters as well, and Alexi Casilla had a great fielding play in the 5th inning to help out Perk a little bit.

 

Speaking of Casilla, he was 1-for-3 with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored. Carlos Gomez, batting one spot ahead of Alexi, collected three singles and two RBI, coming on a key single with runners on second and third in the 6th inning. Gomez also stole two bags, giving him a total of 20 SBs on the year. That number is slightly misleading though, because when you factor in his 8 CS, the 20 steals gets toned down a bit.

 

Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher both contributed immensely, again. Harris’ two-run homer in the 4th inning broke a 3-3 tie while Buscher scored three times on a single and two walks. In 12 games that Buscher has now played in this year for the Twins, he’s got 15 hits, 13 RBI, and 10 runs scored. While his .375/.400/.500 hitting line is most likely not sustainable, he has come up with some very timely hits when the team needs them the most.

 

The middle of the order, aside from Joe Mauer‘s game-tying two-run double in the 3rd inning, was pretty punchless. That was Mauer’s only hit in five trips to the plate and Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Jason Kubel combined for one hit in 13 ABs, that being a Kubel single. Morneau and Kubel each had a walk while Kubel had a run scored and so did Cuddy because he reached on an error.

 

Craig Monroe hit his second pinch-hit homer of the year, although this one was not nearly as important as the three-run jack he had in the ninth inning against Kansas City. The score was 7-3 before he got the hit, and Craig Breslow was on his way out to pitch in the next inning. In case you haven’t noticed, Breslow has been literally as perfect as you can expect a reliever to be since he’s been with the Twins, so I have total faith that he will shut down whomever he’s asked to face.

Boof Bonser pitched the 9th inning and although he gave up a single, he did strike out the side.

 

That’s four Cy Young award winners we’ve faced in the past five games, and we’ve beaten every single one of them (well one got a no decision, but Jake Peavy didn’t dominate us so I count that as a victory). It’s fairly well-known that the Twins seem to struggle against the worst pitchers but do average or better against “aces”.

 

Even though 7 out of his last 10 starts have been Quality Starts, it’s Francisco Liriano‘s last two that have me convinced he isn’t ready for the bigs. On June 20th he last 5 innings, allowed 9 hits and 5 earned runs scored. The positives were that he only walked one and struck out 7. Then, yesterday, he went 5 and 1/3 innings, allowed 9 hits and 5 earned runs, walked one and struck out three. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, until Francisco can truly dominate (for example, his 1.78 ERA in AAA in 2005 in 14 games started), he should stay at AAA. Not to mention that the way the ML pitchers have been going, there’s really only one replaceable starter and that’s Livan Hernandez. And with the Twins’ track record of handling overpaid vets, I don’t think Livan will lose his spot in the rotation unless he’s shipped out of town.

 

Today’s game starts at 2:35 (finally! I’ve had enough of those 9PM start games) with Scott Baker facing off against Josh Banks. Who? Yeah, he isn’t a past Cy Young Award winner, but he’s pitching like it so far this season. In 33 and 1/3 innings he’s allowed just six runs for an ERA of 1.62. Here’s hoping that the Twins can extend their winning streak to 9 against this young gun.

I wasn’t able to watch the game so I’m going strictly off the boxscore today, sorry folks.

 

What initially surprises me is that ace Jake Peavy was pretty much out-pitched by Kevin Slowey. Both went 6 innings but Slowey allowed one less hit (not to mention Slowey only allowed 4 singles while 2 of Peavy’s 5 hits allowed were doubles), one less run (0 to Peavy’s 1) and had 1 more strikeout, all while throwing 14 less pitches. Pretty impressive.

 

Dennys Reyes got the win, throwing 1 pitch to get 1 out to qualify. What a life, huh? You come in with the thought in your mind that you’re only going to face one batter, and it takes you just one pitch to do so, but you still get the win. It kind of makes a 100-pitch no decision look worthless, doesn’t it?

 

The Twins did the best damage in the 9th inning when the score was 1-1 and there were two outs. Brendan Harris, on one pitch from Trevor Hoffman, jacked his third homer of the year (a solo one), while Brian Buscher hit his first homer of the year exactly one pitch later. Unfortunately I have no idea how to check how many back-to-back (and more?) homers a certain team has in any given season, but I am pretty sure that this has to be the first of the year for the Twins. For a team that is dead last in the Majors in home runs, I just have a gut feeling that getting two in a row is incredibly improbable but at the same time it did happen last night, making me pretty sure it’s the first time this year.

 

Tonight’s game starts at 9:05 again and I’m going to do my best to watch it all. Glen Perkins, a future lefty staple of the Twins’ rotation, faces off against Greg Maddux, a future Hall-of-Famer and incredibly crafty lefthander himself. Between Maddux’s ability to pitch out of jams and Perkins’ 6 Quality Starts out of 9 total, I expect this game to be low scoring, much like the first one.

It’s been a year and a half since my last Advertising Day post, and with no game yesterday I thought it might be fitting to try it again. Not to mention that, since that post went live, it’s amassed 2,577 views; leaps and bounds ahead of the post with the second-most views, Johan Santana trade rumors, with 387.

 

I want to make this as simple as possible, so here’s how this will work: I’ll list some of the top searches that people use to get to the blog, add some of my own comments about them, and do the same with the top web sites that refer people here as well.

 

Top search: joe mauer, 1,134 views

     Really? For as much as I rip on the guy, I’m surprised he’s the top reason why people come here. Maybe it’s because he used to date Miss USA Chelsea Cooley.

Chelsea Cooley and Joe Mauer

 

Oh, the irony. The next-best search is chelsea cooley, racking up 176 views. I’m pretty sure those searches go hand-in-hand with all the joe mauer ones.

 

jennie finch, 143 views. Those are because of my Autographs page, I’m guessing. In fact, they have to be because that page is the only time I’ve ever used “jennie finch” as a phrase in my blog. Also, the term jenny finch (a misspelling of her first name) has garnered 43 views. More searches that are probably because of my autographs? nick punto, 75, pat neshek, 40, bob griese, 40, mike nugent, 16, and will blackmon, 10 (with the last three in that group being football players).

 

The term johan santana trade rumors, also the name of my second-best post (in terms of views), is in a tie for fourth place with 107 views. It certainly was big news before, during, and after the trade was finalized. The other search with 107 views is minnesota twins blog, which isn’t surprising because that’s exactly what this is. minnesota twins, the team this blog covers, is next with 90 views.

 

Now to the interesting searches:

twinkies and minnesota twinkies combine for 59 views, which is also ironic because that’s the one name I hate people associating with the Twins. Maybe it’s because twinkies are delicious snacks and the Twins are a professional baseball team; the two really shouldn’t be mixed.

 

Next on the list of oddities are pictures of joe mauer and joe mauer pictures, each with 18 views. I’m pretty sure the only pictures of him that I’ve ever posted here include Chelsea Cooley in them, so I’m afraid that people who use that search term may be a tad disappointed.

 

I guess there aren’t too many awkward/weird searches that come here. The most confusing one might be ih, which has led 6 people here. Hmmm.

After sweeping the Nationals, the Twins completed a sweep of the Diamondbacks yesterday with a 5-3 win which was propelled by a 5-run fifth inning.

 

Livan Hernandez went seven fairly strong innings, by his standards anyway. He allowed nine hits but all of them were singles, and in total three runs scored but just one was earned. Alexi Casilla and Delmon Young both had fielding errors, their fourth and sixth on the year, respectively. Hernandez walked one and struck out a season-high five and needed 104 pitches to go seven innings.

Jesse Crain and Joe Nathan each pitched hitless innings, with Nathan picking up his 19th save on the year. While Crain needed 18 pitches to record three outs, Nathan needed just eight; he also got a strike out.

 

Casilla and Brian Buscher were the heroes, each with two-run singles. Justin Morneau drove in the last run with a sacrifice fly.

It really was a game of missed chances for the D-Backs and luck for the Twins. Arizona’s LF, who normally plays first base, lost a fly ball in the Dome ceiling and had it drop in front of him to turn the situation from one out and a runner on first into runners on first and second with nobody out (key Buscher’s single).

Joe Mauer also had an excellent defensive move that probably saved at least a run. The Arizona batter was supposed to bunt but ended up pulling the bat away and Mauer was able to notice the runner at second straying too far towards third in anticipation of the bunt. An accurate, strong throw got him for the out.

The team also benefited from a pickoff by Hernandez and two double plays.

On the flip side, Buscher was caught stealing, Mauer was thrown out at second, and Mauer also grounded into a double play. But they found a way to win which is obviously the key.

 

That series should really be a booster for the team. After beating future Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson, winner of 5 Cy Young awards, on Friday night and Brandon Webb, first-time Cy Young winner two years ago, yesterday, they can’t not be confident right now.

 

The team is off today but travels to San Diego for a 3-game series in an NL park, meaning pitchers will hit. Kevin Slowey is slotted to start the first game and the unfortunate thing about playing in California is that the game doesn’t start until 9 PM Central time. The first game should be interesting as the Twins continue a trend, facing Jake Peavy who won last year’s NL Cy Young award.

Next Page »