Happy Thoughts

This is going to be one craptacular season for Twins fans, but I’m
done whining (for now). I prefer to focus on the good things that
happened this week:

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Moments like this are what makes it so much fun to be a baseball
fan.  When Sanchez struck out Everth Cabrera looking to complete the
no-hitter, his teammates reacted as though they’d just won the World
Series.  Randy Johnson, who’s thrown a few of those in his career and
whose spot Sanchez replaced in the rotation, came up and hugged the
kid.  And his dad was moved to tears by his son’s performance. 

And if Juan Uribe hadn’t screwed it all up, Sanchez would have thrown a perfect game.  At least Aaron Rowand made a great running catch to preserve the no-no.

Of course, now I’m going to completely rain on his parade by pointing out that he no-hit the weakest offense
in all of baseball.  Granted, the Padres play in an extreme pitcher’s
park and their numbers will always reflect that, but even when you
account for ballpark factors, this offense is pretty bad (this game was
in San Francisco, anyway).  That said, Sanchez’s performance was still
masterful:  11 strikeouts, no walks, only the sixth no-hitter in
history with at least 10 Ks and no walks. 

On a semi-related note, Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times posted a list of the worst (and best)
lineups to ever be no-hit.  The Angels team that Eric Milton no-hit was
number five on the list, which isn’t surprising since Milton is the one
of the most unlikely pitchers to ever spin a no-no.  The Twins team
that David Wells threw a perfect game against wasn’t terrible enough to make the list, but they were probably about as good as this year’s Padres team.

Joe_mauer

Oh, come on, you know he’s going to win it.  There isn’t anything he can’t do
I do think it would be hilarious if Albert Pujols hit 60 bombs in the
first round, only to lose to Mauer because he wore himself out.

  • Joe Crede has already earned his $7 million contract

Crede

It seems strange to write that, since he’s got a weak .226 batting
average, but it’s true.  When researching how awful the worst hitters
in the lineup are (and I was going to consider Crede one of them), I
came across some interesting numbers:

Joe Crede: .226/.293/.428/.721 OPS  11.4 UZR  1.8 WAR 

So
even though he doesn’t hit for a high average, his bat has some pop
and his defense makes him one of the elite third basemen in the
league.  Furthermore, by providing some power and bailing out the
pitching staff on a consistent basis, his overall worth is already estimated at $8.2 million.  Now, you might not agree with the way Fangraphs calculates dollar values
for players (they think Roy Halladay will be worth $35 million this
year), but as long as he remains healthy there is little doubt that
Crede will be worth every penny the Twins are paying him.  Just ask the
pitching staff.

  • The Royals trade for Yuniesky Betancourt

I am not trying to pick on Kansas City (I’ve already done that). I’m just glad he’s off the market now so the Twins won’t be tempted to trade for him (as others have suggested).  Joe Posnanski and Rany Jazayerli,
probably the only fans the Royals have left (and Rany is threatening to
hang it up) have already summarized this deal in two very excellent
posts. 

Seriously, a lot of Royals fans are fed up with the
front office and disappointed in their team, and I don’t really blame
them.  I remember when the Twins were horribly, mind-numbingly bad in
the mid-90s, and how hard it was to cheer for a team that didn’t really
give its fans much to cheer for.  It was like this for nearly a decade,
and we all wondered if it was ever going to end, if we were ever going
to even have a decent team again.  That’s right, we were dreaming of the kind of mediocrity
this team gives us now.  It kind of got me to thinking about false hope
vs. no hope, and which of the two I prefer.  And I guess that false
hope is better than none at all.  Yes, it can be frustrating to watch
your team hang around in the playoff picture all season long, only to fall short at the very last minute.  Or to have your hopes of winning a championship dashed in the first round of the playoffs everysingletime.  But jeezus, at least this way you have something to look forward to.

Besides,
Seligula is more than happy to relocate a small-market team that
consistently loses 90 games to a more lucrative market.  Believe me, I know.

Mired in Mediocrity

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At 43-43 44-43, this team is exactly average.  I’m certainly not the first person to notice this, nor am I the first to point out
that it’s mostly because all of the great talent on this team is
balanced by players who have no business on a major-league roster.  The
awesomeness of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau is balanced by the
suckitude of well, the entire second half of the lineup.  Nick
Blackburn is putting up the best numbers of his career, while Scott
Baker and Francisco Liriano are putting up the worst.  The comparison
between the best and worst players on the team is stark:

Hitters:

Joe Mauer:          .389/.461/.651/1.112 OPS  4.3 WAR
Justin Morneau:   .313/.390/.582/.971 OPS  2.8 WAR
Jason Kubel:    .306/.364/.540/.904 OPS  1.3 WAR
Denard Span:  .288/.375/.377/.752 OPS  1.7 WAR

Matt Tolbert:  .178/.272/.225/.497 OPS  -0.9 WAR
Nick Punto:   .211/.322/.234/.556 OPS  -0.2 WAR
Carlos Gomez:  .218/.277/.318/.595 OPS  -0.3 WAR
Delmon Young:  .270/.296/.349/.646 OPS  -1.2 WAR

The pitching is a slightly different story:

Pitchers:

Nick Blackburn:  2.94 ERA   4.94 xFIP  1.272 WHIP  1.82 K/BB  2.0 WAR
Kevin Slowey:  4.86 ERA   4.38 xFIP  1.412 WHIP  5.00 K/BB  1.4 WAR
Joe Nathan:  1.35 ERA   2.42 xFIP   0.750 WHIP  6.14 K/BB  1.4 WAR

Scott Baker:  5.31 ERA  4.24 xFIP  1.221 WHIP  3.90 K/BB  1.3 WAR
Francisco Liriano:  5.47 ERA  4.53 xFIP  1.490 WHIP  2.02 K/BB  1.3 WAR

Obviously
guys like Luis Ayala (0.1 WAR), Sean Henn (-0.2 WAR), and Jesse Crain
(-0.2 WAR) haven’t been helping much, either.  The good news is that
none of these guys are in the bullpen right now.  The bad news is that
they were here long enough to cost the team wins.

There
are a couple of things worth noting here.  First of which is that, as
much as both Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano have struggled this
season, both are still above replacement-level (that is, both are more
valuable than some scrub picked up off the waiver wire), and both
obviously have tremendous upside.  So, unless the Twins are absolutely
blown away with an offer for either one, it would be wise to hang onto
them for now (and no, Jon Garland and his 5.28 xFIP is not that guy). 
Secondly, despite his .270 batting average, Delmon Young is still one
of the worst hitters in the lineup.  His .349 slugging percentage is
anemic, his 58/6 K/BB ratio is the worst on the team, besides providing
crappy defense in left (-9.1 UZR).  No wonder the Rays were so eager to
get rid of him.

Of course, this is
pretty much the way the Twins have operated for the past decade, so
none of this comes as a surprise.  The likes of Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson, and Rick Reed have rounded out a rotation fronted by Johan Santana and Brad RadkeDustan Mohr, Michael Restovich, and Michael Ryan have all patrolled the outfield alongside Torii Hunter.  After Corey Koskie left, guys like Tony Batista and Mike Lamb were manning third base until Joe Crede came along.  Jason Tyner, he of the one major league home run, was the DH for 31 games in three seasons with the Twins (when Rondell White and Ruben Sierra weren’t available, of course).  Tyner, by the way, was featured on the “Best Persons in the World” awhile back when his current (former?) team traded him away for nothing.  And then there was the Luis RodriguezJuan CastroLuis Rivas infield, with Terry Tiffee on the bench.  And these weren’t even the worst Twins teams.

Obviously
there was a lot of talk about the Yankees’ payroll during the series at
the Dome, and it’s true that having a larger payroll gives a team more
flexibility. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a “Woe is us, how can we
ever keep up
with the Yankees and Red Sox?” post.  Simply spending a lot of money
doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a team will even make the playoffs
let alone win a championship, and there is much more parity baseball
(especially the AL) than pretty much any other major professional sport
in this country.  It’s just that a smaller payroll
gives a franchise a much smaller margin-for-error when making trades,
signing free agents, and even in the draft, since a bad move can
hamstring such an organization for decades. 

The Nick Swisher trade is a very good
example.  Now, the Yankees
acquired him from the White Sox for next to nothing, but even if he
doesn’t work out, the team isn’t completely sunk.  The Yankees
technically have six outfielders since acquiring Eric Hinske from the
Pirates, so they don’t really need Swisher and could easily trade him if
he starts to decline. 
Compare that to the Delmon Young trade (I know, I know, they’re not
really the same since the Young deal had a much higher risk, but bear
with me).  The Twins gave up a lot to
acquire Young and he has yet to live up to his potential.  To be fair,
Young isn’t the only terrible hitter on this team (and he hasn’t even
entered the prime of his career yet), but he needs to put up better
power numbers to make the trade worthwhile (and to justify giving him
so much playing time).  At this point, though, it’s hard to argue that
the Twins wouldn’t be a better team
with Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett.  Worse yet, his poor performance
and perceived attitude problems mean the Twins would have a tough time
getting anything of value for him should they consider themselves
buyers the trade deadline.  Like it or not, they’re pretty much stuck
and simply have to hope that Young will eventually start to develop
some power.

By the way, I tend to consider the
Young trade karmic retribution for the A.J. Pierzynski trade. 
Although, when you think about it, the Young trade is even worse. 
Pierzynski was at least competent both at the plate and in the field,
and Giants fans only had to put up with him for one season.  Delmon, on
the other hand, is the gift that keeps on giving.
 

Cheer Up! Things Could be Much, Much Worse!

lirianotongue2.jpgAfter being utterly and thoroughly owned by the Evil Empire this season, the Twins have slid back to the
.500 mark for the hundred-somethingth time (oh, and you’re welcome,
Yankee fans).  They currently sit in third place, four games behind the
division-leading Kittehs and two behind the second-place Pale Hosers. 
All of which is very, very depressing.  But take heart Twins fans,
we’re not the only ones sharpening our razor blades and drawing a bath:

The Royals are teh suck.  This is hardly news.  But this team has so many problems, it’s difficult to know where to begin. I mean, good God, they replaced Sidney Ponson with Bruce Chen in the starting rotation!  What, Buddy Groom wasn’t available?  Ooh, and now the infield will be manned by both Ryan Freel AND
Willie Bloomquist!  Obviously, GM Dayton Moore hates his job and is
trying his best to get fired.  That should just about do it.

The Cubs took a team that won 98 games last year and made the
playoffs for the third time in six seasons, and tore apart the roster
as rebuilding teams are wont to do. Perhaps it was simply an emotional
response to getting swept in the NLDS by the Dodgers, or maybe they
felt they needed to dump salary to expedite efforts to sell the team,
but they traded away key contributors like Mark DeRosa and Jason
Marquis without getting much in return.  The Baby Bears are currently
in third place behind the division-leading Cardinals and a Brewers team
that features both Jeff Suppan and Seth McClung in its rotation.  Now,
the Cubs are only three games out of first, but even with a recent hot
streak they still have the third-worst offense in the league (only the
Diamondbacks and the Padres are more futile at the plate). Of course, this is all a goat a cat Milton Bradley’s fault.

The Diamondbacks have committed
77 errors this season, the second-most in baseball (only the Nats have
committed more).  Granted, errors and fielding percentage aren’t
exactly the best way to measure a team’s defensive efficiency, but I think if you commit three errors in one inning, it’s safe to assume that you are, in fact, not good at baseball.

I’m going to refrain from taking shots at the Nati(o)nals.  It’s just too easy.  I did get a kick out of the “Oh no: no O!” wardrobe malfunction, though.  At least Montreal Washington’s ineptitude is entertaining:

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(image courtesy chatterbalks.com)

Oh, and Man Muscles is now officially atop the leaderboard (if that’s not enough, you can also see it here, here, here, and here).  He might not finish the season batting .400, but he has a good shot at winning yet another batting title.  So at least we have something to look forward to, I guess.

crying-baby-party-56800676.jpg 

That is all

No, I guess that is not all.  This series has been a nightmare for Twins
fans: from awful pitching to idiotic baserunning blunders to weak
at-bats in nearly every critical situation, the Twinkies have done
everything possible to simply hand the series to the Yankees.  I am
sure the Yankee fans watching these games have wondered why the Twins
don’t routinely lose 100 games and all I can say is: because they’re in
the same division as the Royals.  I guess the best thing about this
series is that we won’t have to see the Yankees again until next year
(this team ain’t making the playoffs, sorry folks).  Oh, and in
sweeping the season series, the Yanks have exposed every flaw on this
team, so maybe the front office will be forced to address these
weaknesses for once rather than pretend that guys like Brian Duensing
and Matt Tolbert belong on a major-league roster.

Speaking of
theoretical trade proposals, some Twins fans have already been pushing
for Bill Smith to acquire Roy Halladay.  You know, I feel for Blue Jays
fans, I really do. I remember the media circus surrounding Johan
Santana and the never-ending speculation we endured during his last couple of
years with the team.  I know how it feels to have every single team in
the league drooling over one your best players, as if his availability
is already a foregone conclusion.  Ever since Ken Rosenthal opened his stupid mouth,
everybody has been speculating about where Doc will end up and what it
would take to get him.  Well, stop it.  First of all, Halladay isn’t
even available.  All J.P. Riccardi said is that if the Jays were
absolutely blown away with an offer for their ace, he would have to
consider it.  And rightly so.  I am sure the same could be said for Joe
Mauer, that doesn’t mean the Twins are interested in trading him. 
Secondly, even if Doc were available, the Twins simply don’t have the
prospects to land him.  Due to a series of bad drafts from 2003-2006,
the much-vaunted farm system is actually rather thin, and other teams
in desperate need of pitching (like the White Sox)
could easily put together a much more attractive package.  And no, I
don’t think a package of Young, Crain, Tolbert, Swarzak, and Henn would
get the job done (All of our stiffs! Gosh, how could the Jays refuse?).

I think the worst part of this whole Halladay trade speculation
thing is that so many members of the media actually believe the Yankees
and Red Sox are in serious contention for him.  Obviously this move
makes sense for those two teams, but why on earth would the Jays want
to trade the best pitcher in the league to a division rival?  That’s
like the Twins trading Santana to the White Sox!  These people do
realize that the AL East is comprised of other teams besides New York
and Boston, right?

Continue reading

Maybe This is the Team We Have

  • Twinkies get their a**es handed to them by the Yankees in 10-2 loss

Thumbnail image for baker.jpg

The Wild had just dropped
a must-win game against Colorado and had put forth one of their most
lackluster performances to date.  The team had just lost seven of its
past ten games, and were just barely clinging to the slimmest of
playoff hopes, and had only managed to score one lousy goal against the
worst team in the Western Conference in a snoozefest of a game.  When
asked why his team put forth such a piss-poor effort with so much on
the line, then-coach Jacques Lemaire replied:

“Maybe this is the team we have.”

And
this, ladies and gentlemen, is your 2009 Minnesota Twins. OK, maybe
they’re not as bad as last year’s Wild team, but they are pretty much
in the same boat.  They haven’t won more than two games in a row since
May 24th, and their longest winning-streak of the season is only four
games.  They are currently looking up at the Tigers and the White Sox,
even if it is only by 2.5 games.  They will likely get swept at home by
the Yankees, and then have to deal with a red-hot White Sox team before
the All-Star break.  The team could certainly use help in the bullpen,
and they could really use a middle infielder who can hit, but aren’t
likely to get anything done at the trade deadline.  The Twins have
always preferred to sit on their hands and hope for the best, while
waiting to make their biggest moves during the offseason (if then). 
And to be honest, I don’t have a great deal of faith in Bill Smith’s
ability to make trades.  His track record so far has been pretty disappointing.

Twinkie Town did a good job breaking down Scott Baker’s horrible performance last night,
and it appears as though he’s still having problems with his
mechanics.  His breaking pitches were flat, his fastballs weren’t as
fast, in short, it’s a miracle that he only gave up five runs against one of the most potent lineups in the American League.  It had been suggested by some of the commenters
on the Star Tribune site that Baker was awestruck by the Yankee lineup,
that he felt intimidated by them, but I don’t think that was the case
at all.  Scotty had actually been quite successful against the Yanks in
his career, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA (small sample size, I know). 
Besides, Baker had the same issues in his last start in Kansas City, in
which he needed 117 pitches to get through five innings, and I doubt he
was awestruck by the Royals’ All-Star lineup.  That the Royals only
scored one run against him says a lot about their offense (namely that
they can’t even buy runs at this point).

  • In meaningless award news…

Justin Morneau has indeed declined an invitation
to defend his title in this year’s Home Run Derby, citing a need to
rest up for the second half of the season as his reason for choosing
not to participate.  Joe Mauer hasn’t been asked, but Gardy thinks he would win it if he were.

Joe Nathan has been named the DHL Delivery Man of the Month.  I mentioned in my previous entry
that Nathan is having one of the best seasons of his career, but I also
want to mention that he’s only walked one batter in his past 11.2
innings, while striking out 18.  He’s given up only four hits
in that period.  That’s about as good as it gets.  No wonder
he’s the only reliever in the bullpen (and one of the few on the staff,
actually) who doesn’t give me heartburn.

I’m a little sad to see Steph go since he’s been with the team for so long, even though he was basically just a fourth-liner.  He loved playing in Minnesota and being part of the Wild organization, even after they put him on waivers simply to prove that he wasn’t as valuable as he thought.  Still, when rookie sensation Cal Clutterbuck pretty much took over his duties on the checking line, it was pretty clear that this would be Steph’s final season with the team.  At least we will always have this:

Giving the Bullpen a Couple of Days Off

  • Nick Blackburn pitches his third complete game of the season in Twins’ 6-2 win

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Blackie (yes, that’s really his nickname) absolutely dominated the Tigers in Sunday’s rubber match, keeping them off the scoreboard through eight innings.  He struck out six and only walked one, and although teh Kittehs recorded seven hits, they weren’t really able mount much of a threat until the eighth.  Unfortunately, Blackie lost his bid for a shut out when Brandon Inge clobbered a two-run homer in the ninth, but he quickly recovered to finish the inning and (most importantly) give the bullpen some much-needed rest.  After pitching 13 innings in Friday night’s marathon exercise in futility, the relief corps will get two full days of rest (some relievers even have three, as Francisco Liriano pitched seven innings on Saturday) before the Yankees come to town on Tuesday night.  When his sinker is working, as it was yesterday, Blackie is a bullpen savior (indeed, he needed only 109 pitches to get through nine innings).  His 116.1 innings pitched are fifth most in the league, and only Zack Greinke has thrown more complete games. 

However, even though Blackburn is putting up some of the best numbers of his career, it’s still way too early to declare him the team ace (or talk about extending his contract).  He wasn’t much better than average last season, and his poor peripherals suggest that a good deal of his success this season is probably due to luck.  Coming in to yesterday’s game, Blackie had a very good 3.10 ERA, but his 1.67 K/BB ratio and 2.3 BB/9 rate are at career lows.  I wrote elsewhere that if those numbers don’t improve, he will likely finish the season with an ERA much closer to his 4.98 xFIP.  The good news, though, is that some of his peripherals have indeed been improving.  While his 1.80 K/BB ratio is still rather low, and he still gives up a lot of hits, his BB/9 rate has been steadily declining the past few months (from 3.08 in May to its current 1.00).  A lot of it has to do with the fact that his fastball is nasty.  The velocity tops out at around 91 mph but the movement on it has been absolutely filthy, and as long as he can sustain that kind of break on his fastball, his strikeout rate should start to improve.  Blackburn will likely keep rolling through the second half of the season (and hopefully the playoffs).

  • Twins once again send three representatives to the All-Star Game

twinkie_all_stars.jpg

Joe
Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Joe Nathan are all set to represent the
Twins in the ASG.  Kevin Slowey probably had a good chance of joining
his teammates in St. Louis, if he hadn’t gone down with a wrist injury
(he is supposed to have an MRI on it today.  UPDATE:  it is just a strain.  He was treated with a cortisone shot and should resume throwing in a few days).  You could probably make
the case for Nick Blackburn too (Joe Nathan did), since he is sporting
a 2.94 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, but I have no problem with the likes of
Justin Verlander and Mark Buerhle getting the nod instead.  I’m not
going to get into a huge debate over who got snubbed and who didn’t
deserve a starting spot, there’s already plenty of that on the
internets.  I don’t think there are many glaring oversights on either
team, other than maybe Ian Kinsler and Torii Hunter (who should be
starting), and the ASG isn’t something I get all worked up about
anyway.

Justin Morneau has indicated
that he will probably decline an invitation to the Home Run Derby, if
asked.  It’s probably just as well.  His tendency to fade down the
stretch probably doesn’t have anything to do with participating in the
HR Derby, but why take that chance?  Anyway, this way people won’t get
mad at him for beating a much-flashier superstarAgain

Joe
Mauer is making his second consecutive start in the ASG, and his third
career appearance.  Even after missing the first month of the
season, he’s still far and away the best catcher in the AL.  Although,
5 of the 31 “greatest minds in baseball” think that Victor Martinez
should have been the starting catcher.  That’s right, a guy batting
.303/.382/.506/.888 while making half of his starts at first base
deserves to be the starting catcher, while the guy batting .389/.465/.648/1.113
should be on the bench.  Yes, let’s give all of the voting power to
these people, clearly the fans are too stupid to get it right.

Joe
Nathan is also quietly having one of the best years of his career.  His
last blown save came against the Yankees on May 15th, and he hasn’t
surrendered a run since.  Not an unearned run, not an inherited runner scoring,
nothing.  His 2.40 xFIP, 6.14 K/BB ratio, 11.6 K/9 rate, and 1.9 BB/9
rate as well as 1.35 ERA and 0.750 WHIP are all at or near
career-bests.  He’s been getting hitters to chase pitches outside the
strike zone a little more, which has made him extremely effective even
when he doesn’t have his best stuff.  

I Guess Miracles Do Happen

  • Nick Punto (!) drives in winning run against Tigers

twins_win.jpgOk, first a bit of a rant.  Today’s game was nationally regionally broadcast on Fox.  Probably only 0.001% of the country actually saw it, since most of the rest of America got the Dodgers/Whoever game.  Fine.  Whatever.  I don’t care if the entire nation gets to see the Twins game, or what channel it’s on, as long as I get to see it on my tv (and I did).  What really drove me nuts, however, is when Fox cut from the Twins game to the Dodgers game just as Miguel Cabrera was stepping into the batter’s box because they felt it was so goddam important to show us Manny Ramirez’s first home run since coming back from his suspension.  News flash Fox:  I am a Twins fan, I don’t give a sh!t about Manny Ramirez.  I haven’t given a sh!t about Manny since he left the Indians, and now that he’s no longer in the American League, I care even less.  I want to watch Francisco Liriano pitch!  I haven’t been able to say that very often this year!  And I’m sure the Tigers fans watching the game really wanted to see Miguel Cabrera hit, not Manny.  Worse yet, Cabrera was on base when the mouth-breathers at Fox finally switched back to the Twins-Tiggers game, and we were left wondering how in the hell that happened.  Yes, the broadcasters later replayed Cabrera’s single to right, and yes, nothing really important happened in the game while they cut away, but that isn’t the point.  I am tired of the mainstream media acting like the only things that matter in baseball happen to the three largest markets in baseball.  I realize that a Twins-Tigers game probably isn’t that exciting to 99% of the country, but it is pretty f*cking important to Twins and Tigers fans.  It’s more important to us than whatever the hell Man-Ram or A-Rod or whatever other superstar-we’re-supposed-to-care-about-because-he-plays-in-a-large-market is doing.  Besides, ESPN will show the same Manny highlights every five minutes, so it’s not like we would never get to see it or anything.  Let us watch the battle for the AL Central in peace!

Whew, I feel much better now.  Frankie was great in this game, although a late-inning near-meltdown prevented him from getting the win.  He shut out teh Kittehs through six innings, striking out seven and only walking one.  Unfortunately, F-bomb ran into trouble in the seventh when he surrendered a three-run homer to Twin-killer Magglio Ordonez, allowing the Tiggers to briefly take the lead.  He did settle down after that though, and managed to finsh the inning without any further damage.  This is obviously a huge step forward for a guy who would completely melt down whenever he got himself in trouble, and while Frankie might not be the same pitcher he was before TJ surgery, he should be better than his 5.49 ERA.

Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer both homered in this game, giving the Twins an early 2-0 lead.  The 2006 MVP had a very good afternoon at the plate, going 4-for-4 and driving in the tying run, besides hitting his 20th homer of the year.  But even the Mountie was overshadowed by Nick Punto (of all people), who provided the game-winning hit: a bloop single that drove in Matt Tolbert and put the Twins ahead 4-3 in the eighth.  You know, Punto’s been hitting .286/.545/.286 so far this month, so I’m going to stop making fun of him for now.  He still isn’t exactly earning his $4 million this season, but at least he isn’t as much of a liability in the bottom of the order.

  • Twins drop first game of series in sixteen innings

slowey-fail.jpgToday’s win was particularly sweet because Friday night’s game was no fun for Twins fans.  Kevin Slowey was awful, and as it turns out, is injured.  Slowey has looked like he might be hurt in his past few starts so this
news isn’t surprising, though the cause of the injury is somewhat
suspect (a line drive from a year ago, really?).  The Slow Man has been uncharacteristically wild, walking five batters in his past three starts and, most tellingly, hitting two (he had four hit batsmen all season last year).  Anthony Swarzak has been recalled from Rochester in the meantime.  Swarzak is hardly an ace, but he’s pitched well enough to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter and should at least serve as a competent fill-in while Slowey is on the DL.

By the way, this is what it looks like whenever Slowey issues a walk.

The Twins managed to tie the game in the sixth (and later in the fourteenth), but it was all in vain.  Teh Kittehs scored three runs off of R. A. Dickey in the sixteenth inning, and it would be enough to hold off the Twins.  For the Twinkies, this game was lost in the eleventh, when the game was still tied at 7 apiece and Michael Cuddyer came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs.  The Tigers intentionally walked Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau to pitch to Cuddy, a move that would prove to be brilliant on Jim Leyland’s part.  Cuddy struck out on three pitches, chasing a pitch well outside the zone for strike three.  I actually gave up on the Twinks after that, something I pretty much never do.  I hate to do it, it makes me feel like a bad fan.  This is baseball, after all, and there’s always a chance for a miracle.  But when Cuddy essentially screwed up their best chance to win the game, it was pretty obvious that the Twins just didn’t want to win it.  They simply managed to torment their fans delay the inevitable for five more innings.

As of tonight, Baseball Prospectus has the Twins finishing the season
with 83.9 wins and the Tigers with 84.3.  In other words, the division
is there for the taking so FOR CHRISSAKES JUST GO AHEAD AND TAKE IT
ALREADY!!!