Joe Nathan


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 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.

Of course I time the re-boot of my blog to match up with me going on vacation for a week with very spotty internet service. I’ll do my best to watch most of the games and get some decent feedback but I can’t make any guarantees.

The Twins were able to win the third and fourth games of the KC series, escaping with two 4-3 wins with their “new” closer Joe Nathan. It was announced before the game on Saturday that Nathan had replaced Matt Capps as the team’s closer. I support the decision, trying to make it well-known that I was not a fan of Capps anymore. However I wanted to see Glen Perkins get a shot at the role instead. Some people are saying that Perkins can’t be the closer because that would leave only Jose Mijares as the team’s lefty specialist. The problem with that, is I feel like Gardenhire doesn’t properly use “lefty specialists” anyway. But Perk was solid in relief again in today’s game, using 15 pitches to retire the side with a strikeout. Joe Nathan picked up his second save in as many days, using just 9 pitches for his 5th save of the year. Alex Burnett came into the game in the 7th to relieve Brian Duensing. Burnett recorded two outs; using just two pitches in the process.

 

Jim Thome‘s 596th dinger of the year was the savior for Minnesota, a 3-run shot that put the team up by a 4-1 score at the time. The top of the lineup did the team a big solid as well, with Ben Revere, Alexi Casilla, and Joe Mauer combining to go 6-for-10 with a walk and an RBI, and each of the three guys scored a run too.

 

The team plays a doubleheader Monday against Cleveland, with Anthony Swarzak and Scott Diamond getting the starts.

 

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.

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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).

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.

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