Joe Mauer


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…)

It was another high-scoring game, this time with more suspense, that thankfully ended with the Twins on top. For a minute there I thought we were headed for another snoozer in which the Rangers of Texas (no relation to Walker, the Texas Ranger) would rack up a giant score against our fragile pitching staff.

Luckily, the Twins clawed back and slowly but surely gained the victory to remain 7 games back of Detroit. Minnesota actually led Texas 3-2 going into the bottom of the 4th, but the Rangers put up a 5-spot in the frame to take a 7-3 lead.  (more…)

After the Twins won the last two games against KC, they laid an egg against Cleveland in the first two games of that series. Highlights from the first game, which ended with a score of 5-2:

Anthony Swarzak turning in a quality start, going 6 innings and giving up 4 total runs, but only 3 were earned.

Jose Mijares went two innings without giving up any hits. That is a very encouraging performance based on a few of the stats, but when you dig down deeper he threw 35 total pitches and just 19 were balls. He has struggled with control this year and pitching coach Rick Anderson really needs to work with Jose to get him back to his effective self.

Michael Cuddyer hit his team-leading 14th homer of the year, although it came in the bottom of the ninth inning when the Twins were already down 5-0. I still think he’s above his career averages for hitting, and will come back down to earth at some point this season. If that ends up being the case, the team’s win/loss record during his hot streak will be crucial for their final standing in the Central division.

Probably the only lowlight would be Matt Capps coming into the 9th (again, with the Twins down by 5 runs), and giving up a homerun to a pinch-hitter who has a .331 slugging percentage for the season. He really needs to start having outings where he is effective, to prove he can come back to be a successful reliever for us at some point.

 

The second game was a little more exciting, with the two teams actually tied at 2 runs apiece after the 6th inning. But Cleveland scored 2 runs in both the 7th and 9th innings to win 6-3.

 

Ben Revere had a forgettable day at the plate, combining to go 0-for-9 with no walks but also no strikeouts. He is still a very exciting player on the basepaths as well as in the field, so days like that at the plate just have to be accepted. Not everyone can go 3-for-4 in both games of a doubleheader like catcher/1B Joe Mauer did. He had a run-saving defensive play at first base in the first game, and also threw out a runner from behind the plate in the second game. I really like his defense at first but it’s obvious he’s the team’s catcher. I’m just happy he was able to play both games in full.

 

Scott Diamond, who got called up just yesterday, made his first Major League start in the second game of the doubleheader. He actually pitched pretty well I think. His breaking balls had good movement and although his fastball seemed to top out at 89 or 90 mph, he walked 2 and struck out 1 but most important is that he went 6 and 1/3 innings and gave up just 3 earned runs. He kept the team in the game and that’s what mattered most.

 

A lot of bloggers and fans have been clamoring to get pitcher Chuck James back up with the Major League club, and they all got his wish yesterday when he pitched the final inning in the second game. He showed fans why the Twins were possibly hesitant to recall him, as he threw 30 pitches to record all 3 outs and allowed 3 hits, 2 runs, and also committed a balk in the process. He doesn’t throw faster than 88 or 89 mph, has little to no movement on his breaking pitches, and really has no reason to be on the team in the first place. He’s been out of the Majors since he gave up 30 runs in 29 and 2/3 innings in 2008 with the Braves. At this point the bullpen is in such shambles that another bad pitcher coming into relief hardly even matters at this point.

 

Francisco Liriano tries to right the ship tonight in the third game against Cleveland.

 

It was a game of stumbles this evening, as the Twins fell to the Royals 2-1. Things were slow going, if you’re a fan of high-scoring games, or they were perfect, if you’re an old-fashioned baseball fan, for the first three and a half innings. Then the flashiness of Ben Revere came to the plate and knocked the team’s first hit, a single. After a few pitches to Alexi Casilla, Revere successfully stole second. Casilla grounded out but advanced Revere to third in the process. With Joe Mauer at the plate, the Royals’ pitcher bounced a pitch in the dirt that ricocheted off the catcher’s gear and allowed Revere an easy chance to score the first run of the game. Revere has been a fantastic call-up, providing a much-needed spark at the top of the lineup. Revere owned both of the Twins’ hits, in fact, until bottom of the 7th inning. Revere’s second hit was a line-drive into the right field corner and Ben rocketed around the bases, eventually ending up on third base for a triple. The best part, though, is that Revere did a full somersault halfway between second and third base, but he got up immediately and kept trucking to slide into third.

If anyone saw Gardy’s postgame press conference, you would have seen him talk about how the loss isn’t placed on Matt Capps, and the offense was more to blame. In Capps’ defense, the team mustered a whopping three hits before the 9th inning came around. The offense also had opportunities in the 9th, with a runner on third base and only one out, but they failed to get pinch-runner Matt Tolbert home. I guess technically Tolbert has himself to blame for not scoring, since he ran home on contact from a half-bunt by Luke Hughes and got thrown out by a distance most likely similar to his height. Regardless of all that, though, the fact of the matter remains: the team had a lead in the 9th inning and failed to come away with a win. The inning tipped to the negative side of the scale right from the start, when Capps walked the leadoff batter on four pitches. Capps then recorded two outs (the second one being a very hard-hit linedrive) but surrendered a go-ahead, two-run dinger to fresh big leaguer Eric Hosmer. It’s Capps’ 7th blown save of the season and frankly should not close for this ballclub any more. He can’t be trusted when it matters the most. Whether something may be physically wrong with him (refer to the 2 strikeouts in the last month stat from yesterday’s post) or mentally wrong with him (the fact that he cannot seem to close a game to save his job), he can’t be relied on anymore. Joe Nathan has shown a lot of improvement as of late, and although I know some fans may want to see him close again, I’d prefer to see Glen Perkins get the spot instead. He has been dominant in his newfound role as a reliever and he seems to have accepted that role with a confidence that would work in late-game situations. Listening to 1500 ESPN radio after the game, I got some great information regarding starting pitcher Nick Blackburn. He pitched very well, going 7 innings and only giving up 4 hits. However, in his final inning pitched, it was a 1-2-3 inning in which he threw a measly 6 pitches. It was an interesting move by the manager, because he certainly earned a chance at throwing in the 8th as well. Regardless of how he performed there, it was still almost a certainty that Capps would have pitched the 9th, but it’s an interesting scenario anyway. On to some positives, other than Revere’s good night at the plate:

Danny Valencia had a nice diving stop at third base in the first inning to record the final out of the frame. He is a very solid defender at the hot corner, even with his 7 throwing errors on the year.

Delmon Young continued his good hitting with a solid double to left center as one of his two hits on the night. When he hit the ball, his swing made such good contact that I thought the ball would travel to the outfielders very quickly and Delmon wouldn’t be able to advance, but he trotted into second base without needing to slide. He saw just 8 pitches throughout his 4 at-bats, but I’ve come to accept that Delmon simply will not be patient at the plate. And as fans, we have to deal with it because it does not seem like he will change his approach at this point. I can’t fault him, as long as the approach continues to be successful for him.

Carl Pavano looks to get his 7th win of the year tonight in the 3rd game of 4 against the Royals.

It was a rocky start to the second half of the season for Francisco Liriano and batterymate Joe Mauer. In the first inning, a wild pitch got away from Mauer, allowing a run to score. In Mauer’s attempt to dish the ball back to Liriano, it skipped away and allowed another run to score. In Liriano’s defense, Mauer’s throw was absolutely terrible and he honestly had no reason to even toss the ball back home. Luckily it would prove to be a non-factor.

The Royals actually held a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the 5th, but the two-out Twins just happened to show up at that point. After a pop up and ground out by Alexi Casilla and Mauer, Mr. All-Star Michael Cuddyer drew a walk. Danny Valencia then added on to his team-leading RBI number with a double to score Cuddy. Delmon Young, in his first game back from a DL stint, smacked his second double of the game (en route to a 3-for-4 evening) to score Valencia. Then it was Trevor Plouffe‘s turn, a born-again utility man who has found his love for baseball again. He launched a home run to left field and frankly picked up where he left off at AAA. He would also single and walk during the game, hopefully giving us Twins fans some hope that he can be a solid offensive contributor down the stretch.

Thanks need to go out to the atrocious KC Royals pitching staff. Their starter, Bruce Chen, never threw faster than 84 mph. He also threw over to first base a total of 14 times – just when it was Casilla on first. In the Twins’ other scoring inning, the 7th, they scored two runs via a bases loaded walk and a bases loaded hit-by-pitch. Kudos to Ben Revere and Casilla for being troopers at the plate during that time.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, our wonderful Japanese import, committed his seventh error of the season last night. I think I’m part of a small group that frankly isn’t too concerned with his poor defense. I feel like things will come around for him in time, and I think people forget that this is basically just his second month playing in the Major Leagues. He will adjust, and be a solid player. Already in July he’s posting a .324 batting average paired with a .425 on-base percentage. I don’t believe that he will be close to those numbers all season, but it is still encouraging to see him hitting the ball well when the team is trying to make a run at first place.

I leave you with a couple of interesting tidbits, found on Twitter (which is a fantastic invention, by the way. Follow me @tntryan for awesome baseball updates.)

From Nick, at Nick’s Twins Blog (@nnelson9) – “Since June 17th — about one calendar month — Matt Capps has struck out two hitters. Unbelievable.”

And from Parker Hageman at Over The Baggy (@overthebaggy) – “Liriano held a 13.00 K/BB ratio against lefties last year (52/4). That’s down to 1.50 K/BB this year (18/12).”

 

Very late edit: Plouffe is starting in RF tonight, further proving his willingness to be the best super-utility player this side of the Mississippi.

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.

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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