Michael Cuddyer


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 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 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.

I was unable to watch any part of the game, but saw a brief highlight on ESPN…that counts as watching the game, right? No? Well, maybe not, but I have to say that the highlight I saw showed Francisco Liriano throwing his slider to make hitters look ridiculous. It also showed him getting out of a bases-loaded jam, something that probably ends up being more of a mental challenge rather than a test of physical ability. To me, Liriano showing the poise to get out of such a situation is an immediate sign that he’s improved on more than just his velocity and mechanics (both give us hope for the future, by the way.) In the end he had allowed just three singles in six innings of work. From what I’ve read, he wanted to throw his fastball right away to each hitter but he had a tough time controlling it and that definitely contributed to his three walks. But aided by a key double play and nifty defensive move by first baseman Mike Lamb, Liriano didn’t allow any runs in his six innings of work. He struck out five and had eight groundball outs compared to five fly outs and those numbers are also really encouraging. In all honesty, I just can’t wait to actually watch him pitch in his next start.

 

 

Offensively, Denard Span continues to hold on to the lead off spot, and for good reason. He was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI, including his second homer of the season (off former Twin Juan Rincon, no less.) I’m anxious to see who goes to the bench when Michael Cuddyer comes back. It’s pretty much guaranteed that he will go into right field immediately, but you can’t get rid of Span with how good he’s been playing lately (offensively and defensively.) Span’s hitting line is now up to .315/.403/.865 with a very good 21:19 K:BB ratio. Those numbers are through 130 at-bats this season; let’s compare them with Carlos Gomez‘s month of June, in which he had 130 ABs: .236/.266/.575 with 28 strikeouts and 4 walks. I think it’s clear to most fans that Gomez certainly has the potential to be a fantastic player, some day. I don’t believe that day will happen at any point this season, or really next season for that matter. He needs to develop more and simply hasn’t shown improvement this year. Frankly, he’s the first candidate to get demoted when Cuddyer comes back. You can’t bench him. I don’t believe you can bench Delmon Young, and there’s no need for 5 outfielders on the ML team (I’d consider Jason Kubel the 4th outfielder in that scenario.) But I don’t know how well Gomez would take a demotion. I certainly hope he’s mature enough to realize that there’s a(some) problem(s) and that they need fixin’.

 

Brendan Harris hit his 6th homer of the year yesterday, a solo shot in the 3rd inning. I have a feeling he is close to a hot streak and his final numbers will mirror the .286 batting average, 12 homers, and 35 doubles he had last season.

 

The bullpen kind of blew up yesterday, with Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier combining for 2 IP, 4 hits, and 2 runs allowed. They are lucky the Twins had scored 5 runs up to that point or we could still be in second place in the AL Central standings.

Yes that’s right folks, the Twins now hold a .5 game lead over the Chicago White Sox!

 

The Twins now travel out west for a 3-game set with the Mariners. Tonight’s and tomorrow’s game starts at 9:10 central time while Wednesday’s starts at 3:40. Glen Perkins looks for his 9th win tonight.

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.

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