August 2008


M4133317

 

Francisco Liriano‘s seven innings of one-run ball wasn’t enough, even though he didn’t walk anybody for the first time this year and also had a season-high six strikeouts. No, that picture above sums up the game; a Joe Nathan throwing error with the runners on first and second taking off on a sacrifice bunt that Nathan fielded. It’s his 5th blown save of the season and second on this crucial road trip. Luckily, the White Sox lost so Minnesota is still a half game back in the AL Central standings.

It’s easily the most heartbreaking loss of the season.

 

Players that will be called up when rosters expand on Tuesday: Jose Mijares (RP), Bobby Korecky (RP), Philip Humber (SP), Matt Tolbert (IF), Matt Macri (3B), Jason Pridie (OF), and Ryan Jorgenson (C).

The Twins got the scoring started early, in the second inning with back-to-back doubles. Justin Morneau hit a liner off the left field wall and Jason Kubel followed with a drive to the gap in right-center to drive him in.

Also in that second inning, Denard Span got walked with the bases loaded for an RBI, and for what it’s worth I’m pretty positive that Carlos Gomez swung at would-be ball four with the bases loaded, when he popped out to the infield. Joe Mauer hit a very key two-run single that forced Oakland to make a move to their bullpen, knocking their starter out after just 1 and 2/3 innings.

Mauer would finish with a 5-for-6 night at the plate, scoring once and driving in four.

 

Kubel, Brendan Harris, Carlos Gomez, Alexi Casilla, and Morneau all had at least two hits. Morneau had four actually, two of them doubles, but he only drove in one. Casilla and Gomez each scored twice with one RBI and Harris had a run scored and an RBI.

 

Kevin Slowey pitched his heart out, allowing two runs through six innings of work. He allowed six hits and both of the runs came off a homer in the 4th inning. He struck out ten and walked one. I personally would’ve liked to see him go out for the 7th inning. He finished with 96 pitches but two of the outs he got in the 6th came via a strikeout, so I’m guessing he was still feeling pretty good.

 

Craig Breslow pitched amazing, not allowing a runner in the final three innings of the game. He struck out three and needed just 27 pitches en route to his first career save.

 

Tonight’s game is an “early” game, starting at 8:05 central time. Francisco Liriano will start for Minnesota. The key for Liriano will be to go deep into the game, something he hasn’t really been able to do since coming back to the team. Although by using just two pitchers yesterday, the bullpen should be plenty fresh.

Dennys Reyes and Boof Bonser combined for 2 and 1/3 innings of hitless baseball, needing a total of 23 pitches while both struck out two.

Craig Breslow came into the 9th inning with the game tied 2-2 and gave up a single and a sacrifice bunt. Jesse Crain came in to replace him and promptly walks the first batter he faces. With a pinch-hitter announced, a meeting was held on the mound…but it didn’t work. A double would score the winning run, and thus end the game. Breslow was charged with the run and the loss (his second on the year).

 

Although, the offense was pretty horrible. Only five hits were collected, two of them doubles and the rest singles. Alexi Casilla, Denard Span, and Nick Punto all had a stolen base.

 

Nick Blackburn again couldn’t finish an inning that he started. On the year, he’s got ten starts where he only recorded one or two outs in his final inning.

 

Don’t be surprised to see Jason Kubel basically limited to pinch-hitting duties in the Oakland series, because all the starters he’d face are lefties and Ron Gardenhire has a fear of putting Kubel in against lefties. Well, maybe it’s his .216 batting average against them this season. As much as I’d like to see Kubel in there, hopefully Randy Ruiz can show that he’s worth something and put up some decent numbers in California.

Some notes from the Mariners series:

  • Minnesota was only able to win one game out of the three they played against one of the worst teams in baseball, and even that game almost got out of hand.
  • Joe Nathan had his fourth blown save of the year, but long-time Twin Eddie Guardado is back with the club. He pitched the 8th inning twice against Seattle, his first outing being spectacular while his second outing left a little to be desired. He nearly gave up the 2-run lead by giving up back-to-back doubles and then a single. If it weren’t for Denard Span‘s game-saving bullet to home plate to nab the runner, the lead would’ve been gone.
  • Glen Perkins picked up his 12th win of the season and is now 12-3 on the year with a 3.96 ERA. I honestly think that both he and Span will get at least one vote for ROY nominations. Span’s impact has been phenomenal, both as a leadoff hitter and a RF. And Perkins, despite his unspectacular ERA and WHIP numbers, continues to keep the Twins in the ballgame and that’s seen by his W-L record.
  • A 4-game series against Oakland, the worst team since the All-Star Break, is next on the schedule. It’s very vital that Minnesota takes at least 3 out of the 4 games. I’m continually amazed at how this team can split a series with the Angels, the team with the second-best record in all of baseball, and then lose two of three to virtually the worst team in baseball.
  • The A’s will be sending four consecutive lefties to the mound against us, while we have Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, Francisco Liriano, and Scott Baker, in that order, trying to give us a win. Game times are (Central) 9:05, 9:05, 8:05, and 3:05. I don’t quite know why they can’t just start right on the hour.

I have to admit, I quit watching after the 4th or 5th inning. Not that the Twins were playing poorly, but it got so late that I decided to go to bed. But I continued to get the text updates, saying that all the innings had ended in a tie. Until the 12th. I get a message saying that the Twins had scored a run in the 12th, and I assumed Joe Nathan would come in later in the bottom of the inning…which he did, and he successfully recorded his 35th save of the year. In fact, look at this interesting note about closers, ERA, saves, and the last 50 years of baseball.

Lowest ERA and 35+ Saves Last 50 Seasons:

 

Year Player ERA Saves
1990 Dennis Eckersley 0.61 48
2006 Jonathan Papelbon 0.92 35
2008 Joe Nathan 0.98 35
2003 John Smoltz 1.12 35

 

 

I only hope Joe can keep up this pace and move into second all-time. I have a feeling that a 0.61 is impossible to surpass.

 

Nick Punto hit a triple in the 12th inning, and the ball apparently went off Torii Hunter‘s gold glove. “I expect to catch that ball. I’ve got to catch that,” said Hunter, of Punto’s deep drive. It proved to be the winning run when Denard Span hit a liner down the right-field line for an RBI single.

 

Scott Baker pitched outstanding, going eight innings and allowing just four hits with one run. He walked two and struck out six, but Jesse Crain was the pitcher of record for Minnesota, notching his 5th win of the year.

 

Matt Guerrier pitched in a clutch situation, going two innings and only giving up one hit. Although he did walk two and only struck out one, the important thing is that he didn’t give up any runs that would’ve lost the game. He needs to do anything to improve his confidence at this point of the season.

 

Carlos Gomez had a key RBI single in the 5th inning that tied the game. He, like Guerrier, needs anything to boost his confidence. And Gomez was all smiles when he got the hit, hopefully that means he will start playing a little looser and be able to just have fun out there.

 

Tonight’s game starts at 9 PM again so expect a later blog post tomorrow.

First, my notes from Tuesday’s 13-2 shellacking:

  • I had a general idea that Denard Span was fast, but watching him run full speed in person changed my mind into thinking that he’s actually really, really fast. I’m referring to the play in which he didn’t catch a foul ball (it landed out of play) but he ran all the way to the foul fence in right field and even leapt in the air a bit to try and catch it. Seeing him leg out his 5th triple of the year helped me realize his speed, too.

 

  • Kevin Slowey did an outstanding job, lasting seven innings and allowing just two runs on five hits. He clearly kept Oakland off balance by striking out what I believe to be a career-high twelve batters.

 

  • Brian Buscher got things started early for the Twins by jacking a two-run homer, his fourth of the year, in the 2nd inning. It gave Minnesota a lead after Slowey allowed a run in the top of the 2nd.

 

  • The bottom of the order did most of the damage, with eleven of the team’s thirteen RBI coming from the 6-7-8-9 hitters, capped by Buscher’s five. Carlos Gomez launched a two-run homer, his sixth of the season, and Brendan Harris and Randy Ruiz each collected two hits with two RBI.

 

Onto yesterday’s untelevised, afternoon game. Francisco Liriano didn’t pitch as well as Slowey did, unless you want to get super-technical and say Liriano was near-perfect in that he didn’t allow an earned run through five innings.

 

Mike Redmond was the offensive star, with two RBI singles. Justin Morneau also drove in his 98th run of the year.

 

Most importantly, Alexi Casilla has been activated from the disabled list with Brian Bass being shown to the door. It’s. About. Time. He’s not a ML-caliber pitcher, but the good ol’ Twins sure gave him enough chances to try and prove it.

 

Tonight is the start of a crucial road trip, starting off with the red-hot Angels. Game starts at 9:05 and Scott Baker will start for Minnesota.

Nick Blackburn allowed a solo homer on the very first pitch of the game, and the A’s never really looked back. Blackburn would also allow a two-run single in the 4th inning, but he still pitched a very good game. He was able to last eight innings, something that’s very welcomed by the bullpen. Four of the six hits he allowed were singles, but he had some control issues in that 4th inning and finished with two walks and two strikeouts, all while throwing 66 of his 99 pitches for strikes. Apparently he “locked in” after giving up the two-run single and retired eleven of the final fifteen batters he faced.

 

Offensively for the Twins, nothing happened until the 8th inning. You could blame it on being unprepared; Oakland’s starter left after just 2 and 2/3 innings pitched, with pain in his right hip. Fresh call-up Kirk Saarloos came in and allowed just three singles and struck out three in 3 and 2/3 innings of relief.

 

The 8th inning provided some excitement, and hope. Denard Span led off the inning with a sharp single, but Nick Punto flew out right after that. Joe Mauer, Minnesota’s hero, hit a ball that ended up bouncing off the left field wall, even though it didn’t look like he had hit it very far. Span scored easily, and Mauer wanted to stretch it into a triple. The left fielder’s throw hit Mauer as he slid into the base and caromed into the Twins dugout, resulting in an advance of one base because the ball went out of play. The final scoring on the play was an RBI triple with a run scored because of an error. Justin Morneau followed with a sharp single of his own, and nearly every armchair manager was screaming for Carlos Gomez to come in and pinch-run. It was simple, really. Gomez replaces Morneau and Mike Lamb would come in to play first base for the 9th inning (and any subsequent innings, if necessary.) Then you have the option of sending Gomez to second, or possibly doing a hit-and-run with the pull-happy Jason Kubel at the plate. The non-move proved costly, as Kubel grounded into a double play to end the threat, and inning.

Not that Delmon Young‘s pathetic 9th inning at-bat helped matters. He swung and missed on the first two fastballs, then made lucky contact to foul off the next two pitches before a feeble half-swing at a slider that was caught in the middle of the left-handed batter’s box. I don’t like to rag on a single player like that, because even the great Mauer or MVP Morneau can have bad at-bats. But Delmon is the one player I can watch and have absolutely no hope that he’ll do anything good with the bat. He has no patience and can’t field very well (as seen by the ball that fell out of his glove and the ball that bounced over his glove last night. He was luckily only charged with one error.) I have faith that he’ll be a key member to our team in the future, I just wish he’d show some signs of improvement.

 

Speaking of improvement, I heard a nice quote about Gomez. When he found out he wasn’t in the starting lineup, he said something to Ron Gardenhire that was along the lines of “that’s o.k. coach, I’ll play whenever and wherever you need me to,” which is a hint to me that he may be maturing just a tad bit.

 

Adam Everett had to leave the game after taking a Nick Punto foul ball to his hand. He has a “deep bruise” and it isn’t known whether or not he’ll be able to play tonight.

 

It’s well-documented that Minnesota’s bullpen has struggled lately. I cringe every time I see Brian Bass warming up near the left field seats. Speak with any person that has seen me cringe and they’ll tell you how I’m convinced Bass should wear a white flag underneath his cap, because his coming into the game is the signal of surrender.

Anyway, Al Reyes was released by the Rays yesterday, and might be an option for the team. He collected 26 saves last year for Tampa Bay and currently has a 4.37 ERA in relief this season. Before you shout “A 4.37 ERA is horrible for a reliever!” in disgust at me, please note that if acquired, Reyes’ ERA would put him as our 5th-best man in the pen; ahead of our supposed setup “ace”, Matt Guerrier, and Gardy’s love child, Mr. Bass. One more rant on Bass: he seriously has no ML talent whatsoever. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but he literally has shown nothing to prove that he belongs with the big boys. At least Boof as had some flashes of dominance.

 

Alexi Casilla was 1-for-3 in a rehab start last night, and he hopes to be back to the team by the end of the month.

 

I am fortunate enough to have a ticket for tonight’s game, and will be attending in my beloved Kubel jersey. Look for me in either section 232 or 233 (I can’t remember), row 11, and either seat 7, 8, or 9. Oh yeah, it’s in the upper deck, because it’s apart of the All You Can Eat Seats promotion…I’ll let you know how that works out.

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