Jason Kubel


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.

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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…)

 

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.

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.

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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