July 2008


Glen Perkins didn’t have a Quality Start, allowing four runs through six innings, but he settled into a nice groove after allowing three runs in the first two innings. He finished with seven hits allowed, the aforementioned four runs, two walks, four strikeouts and a solo homer. Most importantly, he stayed in the game long enough to pick up his 8th win of the year.

 

It’s ironic that the White Sox had five extra-base hits, compared to the Twins’ one. A total of four combined runs scored on Chicago’s three doubles and two homers; Justin Morneau, who had the lone extra-base hit for the Twins, drove in three runs alone on his bases-loaded double (which came with two outs, by the way. In my opinion, this only adds to his already strong contention for another MVP award.)

It was Justin’s only hit of the game, but man it came in a great spot. Heading into the 5th inning and down by four, the team needed to step up, and quickly. So Morneau put the team ahead 5-4 with his line drive over the head of right fielder Jermaine Dye.

 

Carlos Gomez, starting his first game since his back injury, went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI single in that five-run 5th inning. His night included a bunt single to start off the 7th inning. Denard Span sacrificed him to second and Joe Mauer would later drive him in with a single.

 

The importance of Gomez scoring in the 7th wouldn’t be seen until two outs had been recorded in the 9th inning, with Joe Nathan on the mound. A 3-2 pitch he sent to Nick Swisher was promptly launched near the upper deck in right field, bringing the Sox within one. He retired the next batter on just one pitch though, recording his 29th save in 31 chances.

 

As great as it is that the Twins won, there was some bad news that came out after the game. Alexi Casilla had sat out because of a sore thumb. Somehow his injury had changed during the game, going from sore to a “torn ligament” in his thumb, requiring a stint on the DL. The injury is similar to the one that Matt Tolbert suffered in May, and Matt has yet to see the field with the team (I don’t think he’s even close to coming back.) The best-case scenario would have Casilla back on the 15th day, but I’m afraid that’s not very realistic. Adam Everett was placed on waivers yesterday but when Casilla’s injury surfaced, Everett was called and told he was needed with the team still. That shows an uncomfortableness with playing a combination of Nick Punto/Brendan Harris between shortstop and second base, with Brian Buscher and Mike Lamb rotating at third.

Losing Casilla hurts immensely. He was a spark in the 2-hole, taking a lot of pitches and getting on base at a good clip. He did have a few errors but even so, I feel that his defense was above-average and he made a few very nice plays that made people say “wow!”

This also pushes the issue of possibly making a trade before tomorrow’s 3 PM deadline. I don’t even want to get into possible options at 2B because I don’t think the Twins will make any deal, at all. They usually never do because they prefer promoting from within the organization. Not that there is anybody “waiting in the wings” in AAA, other than Francisco Liriano, but rumor has it his glove and range are too subpar to play second (I try and fail mightily at some humor.)

 

Anyway, Livan Hernandez (8-1 at the Metrodome) pitches tonight and will try to ensure the Twins don’t lose any ground against the rival Sox. The game starts at 7:10, just like every other game in the series.

Kevin Slowey was nothing short of brilliant, allowing just 6 hits in a complete-game shutout of one of the top offenses in the league. It took him 102 pitches to go the distance, which included 5 strikeouts compared to just 1 walk. In fact, all 6 of the hits he allowed were singles and he was aided by 1 double play.

 

Offensively, things got started in the 3rd inning with Denard Span‘s first career ML homer, coming with Nick Punto on base. It was an absolute bomb that was matched just a few batters later, when Justin Morneau drove a pitch to straightaway center field, with Alexi Casilla on base. Just like that the lineup gave Slowey a 4-0 lead. That would be Span’s only hit, but Morneau would add an RBI with a single later on in the game. He finished 2-for-3 with 3 RBI, a run scored, and a walk.

 

Carlos Gomez, sitting out the last few games due to a back injury, felt good enough to play and made a pinch-hit appearance in the 8th. He singled and would later score, and played CF for the last half-inning.

 

Mike Redmond had two singles and is now a career .500 hitter against Mark Buehrle, at 14-for-28. That was why he was put in as the DH, as Joe Mauer caught the game (but was hitless in 4 at-bats).

 

There’s still no news on Francisco Liriano, and frankly I think this is turning into quite a debacle. The clear replacee would be Livan Hernandez, but the team feels his “veteran presence” adds to the team. And they might have a point, but…I just think it’s time to see what Liriano can do.

 

Glen Perkins pitches tonight at 7:10. 

Minnesota did not have a runner on base until Craig Monroe hit his 9th double of the year to lead off the 6th inning. That’s where things sort of unraveled for Cleveland because Brendan Harris walked and Nick Punto reached on a sacrifice bunt that was misplayed by both the 3B and pitcher. He bunted down the third base line but the 3B went to cover the base, while the pitcher stood on the mound. By the time anybody got to the ball, Punto was long safe at first.

This is where the news turns to unfortunate, if you’re Nick Blackburn. Denard Span and Alexi Casilla, the next two batters, each got an RBI through a groundout. So how is that unfortunate news for Nick, if his team was ahead 2-1? With the bases loaded and nobody out, the Twins only managed two runs. Our bullpen would give up a run in the 8th inning, giving Blackburn a no decision in a game that he pitched pretty well in. He was able to go 7 innings on 99 pitches, only allowed one run on 4 hits, plus he struck out 3 and walked one.

 

The lineup came up big in the 9th inning though. Casilla hit a 1-out, ground-rule double. Justin Morneau, after Mike Redmond had struck out, hit his 25th double of the year to drive in Casilla and pick up his 76th RBI of the season. Delmon Young was intentionally walked, and Jason Kubel made them pay for it with an RBI single.

 

More key 2-out hitting by the Twins…what a shock. The Twins lead the Majors in batting average in multiple situations: with runners in scoring position (.315), with runners in scoring position and two outs (.286), with runners on (.297), with the bases loaded (.341), and in close-and-late situations (.280). Close-and-late is defined as the 7th inning or later with either the score tied, or the tying run for either team in the on-deck circle.

Truthfully, it’s one of the very few reasons the Twins are just 2.5 games behind the White Sox this late in the season.

 

Speaking of the Sox, they’re coming into town for a 4-game series…I don’t think it’s too outlandish to think that it’s the most important series of the year, thus far. The problem for the Twins is that Chicago will be throwing 3 (probable) lefties, and for one reason or another the Twins just cannot hit left-handed pitchers this year. The Metrodome favors Minnesota though; the Twins are 34-19 at home this season which is 5th-best in the Majors.

 

A quick update on Francisco Liriano: he threw 6 innings last night, giving up 8 hits and 4 runs, but he only walked 1 and struck out 9. There’s still no new news on a possible promotion date, which is unfortunate.

 

Kevin Slowey pitches tonight and will look to get the team off to a good start in this crucial series.

The Twins routed the Indians last night, scoring 6 runs in the first inning on their way to an 11-4 win.

 

Scott Baker wasn’t very sharp, but he picked up his 7th win of the year by tossing 5 innings. He allowed 5 hits and 3 runs, had 3 walks with 5 strikeouts, and also allowed a solo homer. Jesse Crain would allow a run later on in the game, but everyone else who pitched didn’t allow any runs.

 

Brian Buscher highlighted the first inning with a 3-run bomb, his third of the year. The Twins were aided by 3 walks in that first inning. Buscher finished the day with 3 hits and 5 RBI.

 

Justin Morneau was 2-for-3 with 2 walks and 2 runs scored, and his batting average is up to .319, just 1 point below Joe Mauer‘s.

 

Jason Kubel and Delmon Young each added 2 RBI, with Delmon scoring twice and Kubel just once.

 

Francisco Liriano pitches today…for the Rochester Red Wings. It’s become rather outrageous that he isn’t pitching for the Twins. Something has to be done to give the poor kid some confidence. He knows he’s tearing it up, but what does he have to show for it? AAA pitching awards? Who cares. He needs to be with the big club to help us win games, now.

 

Nick Blackburn is pitching right now, trying to help Minnesota win this series.

Glen Perkins had 4 shutout innings against one of the hottest teams in the Majors, but ran into a little trouble in the 5th. But with two outs, a backup left fielder drove a double with two men on, giving New York at 2-0 lead. No big deal, he got out of the inning with a low pitch count and there was still some game left.

Well, there was more trouble in the 6th as the inning started with a double, a walk, and a 2-run double by Alex Rodriguez. A sac fly later in the inning would make it 5-0 and Perkins was done after 6, allowing 8 hits and 5 runs with a walk and 2 strikeouts, and still just 85 pitches thrown.

 

Mike Lamb had a good day at the plate, spelling Justin Morneau at first base. Lamb had a double and 2 singles in 4 trips to the plate and he also drove in the team’s only run.

The only other noteworthy hitter was Alexi Casilla, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.

 

Denard Span hit lead off again, and although he was hitless in this game, in the Yankee series overall he was 5-for-11 with a couple runs scored and some stellar defense. He’s making two cases for himself; one, to play in RF and two, to bat lead off instead of Carlos Gomez. Gomez, meanwhile, isn’t helping his case at all. He’s hitting a measly .169 for the month of July, with 3 walks compared to 16 strikeouts. He’s got a .282 on-base percentage for the entire year; Grady Sizemore, the leadoff man for Cleveland, has a .377 OBP so far this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Span continues to lead off until he either gets demoted to bench duty when Michael Cuddyer comes back or he flat out gets demoted back to AAA, due to no roster space. I personally think that the second scenario is far-fetched; he’s playing incredibly well right now, and has shown patience similar to Casilla’s.

 

Finally, it’s time to bring up Francisco Liriano. Get rid of Livan Hernandez and let Liriano loose. In his past 5 starts at AAA Rochester, Liriano’s combined for 35 IP, 19 hits, 1 ER, 5 walks, and 42 strikeouts. That’s a .26 ERA. I was definitely skeptical of bringing up him before the All-Star Break, but it’s clear that he has earned a spot with the ML team. Seriously, the only predictable, reliable starter we have right now is Scott Baker. Perk has had some decent games, along with Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey, but they manage to get shelled at the worst times possible for the team. I have a feeling that Liriano wants to come up here, and prove he can pitch at a high level again. And frankly, I want to see it.

 

Today is an off-day for the team and then they travel to Cleveland for a 3-game set.

Our pitching, usually stellar, has been incredibly ugly in this New York series. Today’s game starts in less than an hour, look for a recap of the last two games of the series to appear tomorrow.

Glen Perkins nabbed his 7th win of the year on Friday, helped by his 10th Quality Start in 14 total starts this season. He allowed 3 hits but no runs in 6 innings, walking 3 and striking out 1. It was long believed that Perkins was better-suited as a lefty in the bullpen but frankly I think he has to start for us. He seems to be good for about 6 innings, as seen by his 8 starts of 6 innings or less. Either way, he’s earned a spot in our young, developing rotation. I don’t see him being shuffled around any more, and we can only hope he’ll continue to improve.

 

Perk was helped by 4 Delmon Young singles, 2 Jason Kubel RBI, and 2 RBI from Brian Buscher as well.

 

Game 2 was one I was unable to watch, but it seems like it was interesting enough. It was a 14-2 drubbing with the Twins scoring 8 runs with 2 outs.

Helping Livan Hernandez win his 10th game of the year were solo homers by Joe Mauer and Young, and 2-run homers by Justin Morneau and Brian Buscher.

Carlos Gomez, Mauer, Morneau, Young, Buscher, and Denard Span all had at least 2 runs scored. Brendan Harris was the only Twin without a hit and he joined Craig Monroe as the only Twins to not score a run.

 

Minnesota’s heart was broken in the final game, in which Scott Baker pitched 8 innings and only gave up one run; a solo homer to Taylor Teagarden. In fact, that was (and still is) Taylor’s only Major League hit. A congratulations goes out to him, even though that’s an awful way to lose a game. The Twins could only muster 3 hits, all singles, and didn’t help themselves with two double plays and a caught stealing.

 

They’re in New York now to face off against the Yankees, meaning games will start at 6:05 instead of the usual 7:05. Tonight we face former Twin Sidney Ponson…this should be interesting.

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