Milton Bradley had a very tough day at work today. He lost Jason Kubel’s routine fly ball in the sun, which put two on with nobody out and set up a two-run inning for the Twins. Later in the same inning, he couldn’t field Michael Cuddyer’s line drive to right, playing a single into a run-scoring double. But, most hilariously, he also had a major brain fart on a Joe Mauer pop fly. Bradley forgot how many outs there were in the inning and threw the ball into the stands (hint: there was only one, Milton). Nick Punto scored easily and Brendan Harris was awarded third base. Personally, I think the play should’ve been ruled a home run. That ball went right into the stands! So what if Bradley was the one who threw it there? Bradley kind of redeemed himself by hitting a big two-run double in the sixth, cutting the Twins’ lead in half at that point. Unfortunately, he couldn’t redeem himself completely, allowing Delmon Young to rob him of the potentially game-winning hit in the eighth.
For Twins fans and Cubs haters alike, this was a great game. Joe Mauer hit his 13th home run of the season, a two-run blast that gave the Twins an early lead (and tied his career high set in 2006). Jason Kubel hit a solo shot in the ninth that extended the lead to 7-4, his tenth of the season. And Brendan Harris went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored, which should help his case to be the starting shortstop (at least until Gardy realizes he isn’t a utility role player anymore). Nick Punto even hit the ball out of the infield a couple of times. I can’t remember the last time I wrote that.
Kevin Slowey was cruising along through the first five innings, allowing one hit and striking out nine Baby Bears. I guess he decided not to rely on the worst defensive outfield ever behind him. Slowey did start to fall apart in the sixth, when he surrendered three runs and cut the lead to only one run. None of that can be blamed on the defense though, all of those runs came on some very hard hit line drives (the outfield didn’t walk Mike Fontenot, either). The bullpen wasn’t great, but they managed to (barely) hang onto the lead for a change. Joe Nathan retired the Cubs in order to pick up his fourteenth save of the season in a very non-heart-attack inducing manner.
Ron Gardenhire gets a lot of criticism from fans for his management of the bullpen, especially his reluctance to use Joe Nathan in anything other than a save situation. And since the front office has consistently failed to put together a decent bullpen, the few reliable relievers on the staff get overworked (sometimes to the point of injury, see Pat Neshek and Jesse Crain). Case in point: Matt Guerrier. Matty G. had logged 28.1 innings coming in to today’s game (where he was asked to record the final out in the eighth) and had made three straight relief appearances, while Joe Nathan had only logged 23.1 and hadn’t worked since Wednesday. I realize that this is a national league ballpark, and the thought that Joe Nathan might come up to bat isn’t particularly appealing, but it was a save situation anyway and it makes sense to use Nathan since he’s had more rest. Guerrier was awful in the second half of last season, posting a. 8.88 ERA and 2.092 WHIP after the All-Star break, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that he was overworked. And with all of the innings he’s logged the past six seasons, it’s probably only a matter of time before he too ends up on the surgery list.
By the way, the best part of the game is that Wrigley was half full of Twins fans. Seriously, if Wrigley Field weren’t so distinctive, one would think the Cubs were the visiting team. Chants of “M-V-P!” and “Where’s Mark Prior?” whenever Joe Mauer came up to bat warmed even my icy cold heart. There was plenty of cheering whenever the Twins would score, or when Kevin Slowey struck out yet another Cub. There was also a lusty booing of Cub players, although I don’t think all of that was coming from Twins fans.
On a completely unrelated note, but because I find the idea so delightfully disgusting, here is former Toronto pitching coach Bob Miller discussing the fine art of spitting tobacco juice on umpires:
- If I pretend the seventh inning didn’t happen, the Twins win this one, right?
Scott Baker was cruising along, pitching a no-hitter through six innings. The offense, with the help of some Kansas City errors, managed to scratch out four runs against tough right-hander Gil Meche. It looked as though the Twins were about to win their third straight series, and put the ugliness of last night’s game behind them (more on that in a minute). But then all hell broke loose in the seventh. Scott Baker gave up a single to lead off batter Willie Bloomquist. Then another single, then a three-run homer to Jose Guillen. Baker failed to record a single out in the inning, and when it was all over, Kansas City had a 5-4 lead that it wouldn’t relinquish. R.A. Dickey would allow two more runs, and the Royals’ bullpen would hang on to beat the Twinkies 7-5.
Yes, five runs on five hits in one inning is pretty bad, but Baker has shown steady improvement in his past couple of starts and his very good 16/5 K/BB suggests that he’s on the right track. Before he completely fell apart in the seventh, Baker dominated the Royals throughout the entire game, giving up only one walk. I’m not sure if he just lost focus after surrendering the single to Bloomquist, or if he was starting to get tired (Baker has never been terribly efficient and had already thrown about ninety pitches going into the seventh), but this is still a vast improvement for a guy who was surrendering home runs at the rate of once per inning, all of which came with runners on. His ERA has now dropped to 9.15, which is pretty good considering that it was as high as 12.46 after his implosion against the Red Sox in Boston.
I have mentioned before that the Royals will be a good team this year, but this whole series had less to do with the Royals’ talent and everything to do with the Twins’ ineptitude. If it were not for some poor pitching performances in this game, and some crucial defensive mistakes in Saturday night’s game, the Twins would have swept Kansas City and moved into first place. If nothing else, they would have taken two out of three and remained only a half game back. But now they’re 12-13, and are two games behind the first place Royals. Which is precisely where they were before this homestand began.
- Defensive miscues and a horrendous bullpen cost Twins in Saturday’s 10-7 loss
Saturday night’s game against the Royals was about the ugliest I have ever seen. Officially there were four errors between the two teams, but unofficially, well, I lost count of all of the misplays in the field. Brian Bannister, who did struggle a bit, didn’t really get much help from the defense behind him. Only three of the six runs he surrendered were actually earned. Glen Perkins, on the other hand, was terrible on his own, giving up five earned runs on ten hits. For the third start in a row, Perk reverted into his old bad habits and started throwing a steady stream of fastballs whenever he got into trouble. And the Royals made him pay, chasing him out after six mediocre innings. The Perkins that got off to such a good start earlier in the season, the one that went at least eight innings in three starts and gave up only four runs, changed speeds effectively and generally did a good job keeping hitters off balance. I wonder whatever happened to that Perk and if we’ll ever see him again this season.
After last night, Ron Gardenhire has finally decided he’s seen enough of Alexi Casilla’s poor play and has benched the second baseman, at least for one game. Casilla made two crucial errors in the second game of the series, both of which likely cost the Twins the game. In the seventh, with the Twins clinging to a one-run lead, he failed to cover second on a steal attempt by Willie Bloomquist, who later scored on a single by Billy Butler to tie the game. The Royals untied the game in the very next inning, when Casilla misplayed a routine ground ball that would have ended the inning but instead allowed Alberto Callaspo to score from third. Alexi tends to be an emotional guy, and sometimes he lets his struggles at the plate affect his concentration in the field. Casilla was one of the big question marks coming into the season, as he’s struggled at both AAA and the major league levels before putting together a successful 2008 campaign with the big club. Still, Gardy doesn’t think that Casilla’s hot start with the Twins last year was a fluke, and is holding out hope that a day off is all the young second baseman will need to get back on track.
I don’t really know what to say about Craig Breslow. He’s now walked nine batters in 6.2 innings, and walked the bases full in the eleventh before he was pulled in favor of R.A. Dickey. Breslow was very effective last season, but seems to have lost his release point and Ron Gardenhire has now officially put the lefty on notice. The organization has been losing patience with Breslow, whose days are likely numbered since Jose Mijares has been lights out since his call-up and Anthony Slama has been pretty impressive with AA New Britain. It’s kind of a shame, too, because I started to really like the guy. Still, I guess this is probably why he’s bounced around between four different organizations in his five major-league seasons. But hey, at least he still has that medical school thing to fall back on.
- Bruce Boudreau is probably glad that he decided to bench Jose Theodore
Not bad for a rookie:
- Defensive miscues cost Rays, help Twins secure second straight series win
Starter Scott Kazmir wasn’t exactly sharp last night, allowing six earned runs, including a couple on wild pitches, but he didn’t exactly get much help from his defense, either. I think the official tally of six earned runs is actually pretty generous, it was probably more like four. There was a fly ball off the bat of Jason Kubel that outfielder Ben Zobrist probably should have caught that was ruled a hit. There was also a scorching line drive to third by Brendan Harris that Evan Longoria bobbled, though in his defense, that was a difficult play to make and was probably correctly recorded as a hit. Granted, the Metrodome is a difficult place for visiting teams to play, what with the lights and the roof and the horrid turf and stuff. But Tropicana Field isn’t all that different from the Dome, so I’m not really sure what to say about the Rays.
For his part, Nick Blackburn was pretty effective, holding the Rays offense to two earned runs on eight hits in seven innings. Seven of the eight hits he surrendered were harmless singles, and he walked only one batter, despite the fact that he wasn’t really feeling that well through most of the game. Blackburn and Glen Perkins, who were the weakest links in the rotation last season, have actually been the most effective starters for the Twins so far. Since he tends to give up a lot of hits, I wouldn’t expect Blackburn to finish the season with an ERA under 3.90, but he should pitch at least 200 innings and at least give the poor bullpen an occasional night off.
- In other news:
Carlos Gomez and his wife Gerandy now have a son. Both mom and baby are doing fine, and Go-Go should be back with the team on Friday.
Joe Mauer will also return to the lineup tomorrow night. No roster moves have been made yet, as Mike Redmond is dealing with a sore shoulder that might land him on the DL. Even though it would be tough to justify carrying three catchers, switch-hitter Jose Morales has been hitting so well from both sides of the plate that the Twins might want to reconsider sending him to Rochester.
Speaking of difficult roster decisions, Jesse Crain hasn’t felt any pain during his bullpen sessions and could be activated as early as Tuesday. Jose Mijares, who was called up to replace him, has been too dominant to send back to Rochester. R.A. Dickey, Luis Ayala, and Juan Morillo have all been struggling a bit recently, but Dickey is the only one the Twins can send down (Morillo would have to be placed on waivers). It will be interesting to see what the FO decides to do.
If parity has truly come to the American League, will anybody win 100 games in a season again? Or lose 100?
Zach Greinke finally gave up an earned run last night, his first in 43 IP. You know, I don’t want to hear anymore about how weak the AL Central is supposed to be. Even from me.
It turns out that the life of the average minor league ballplayer is actually pretty boring.
And in light of recent events, the late Bea Arthur reminds the kids to make fair play a part of their game. With a little help from some friends, of course:
Actually, this game was pretty close through six innings, until the Sox bullpen forgot how to record outs in the seventh. The Twins jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but then Chicago came right back, tying the game and then taking the lead on a solo homer by Paul Konerko in the third. That lead would vanish in the very next inning, however. Denard Span laced an RBI double to right-center, and then Alexi Casilla tripled and scored on a Justin Morneau single to put the Twins ahead for good. Morneau started the offensive explosion in the seventh with a solo homer to left field, and then things kind of fell apart for the Sox from there. The Twins would bat around on three different relievers in the inning without recording a single out.
Joe Crede picked a very good time to hit his first home run of the season, during is very first at-bat against his former team. As a joke, the Sox played Air Supply’s “All Out of Love” when he came up to bat in the second. The joke was his former teammates, though, as Crede promptly deposited a 2-0 pitch from starter Jose Contreras into the seats. The crowd, which had previously given him a standing ovation, quickly started to boo as he rounded the bases.
Catcher Jose Morales also had a very good night at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a pair of walks. Morales was 3-for-3 in his previous appearance against Contreras at the Cell, his first major league game (and the one in which he injured his ankle). More importantly, he handled Dickey’s knuckleball very well, making several blocks with runners on.
Starter R.A. Dickey was a bit wild with the knuckleball, walking four batters in five innings. He gave up three runs on four hits, but was effective enough to get his first win of the season (and perhaps well enough to earn a spot in the bullpen when Scott Baker returns to the rotation). Brian Duensing pitched three innings of relief, giving up a two-run homer to Carlos Quentin in the seventh, but pitched two relatively uneventful innings before and after that. Philip Humber pitched a scoreless ninth.
Delmon Young was back in the lineup and had his first hit of the season, an RBI single with the bases loaded in the seventh. Unfortunately, he also misplayed a very catchable fly ball in the first, allowing Chris Getz to advance to second. Dickey managed to pitch out of the inning, but it does highlight one of Young’s biggest weaknesses: his defense. The outfielder has been criticized for his terrible play in the field (and not just by me). This is the second time in as many starts that Young has mishandled the ball on a very routine play. With the outfield situation being as crowded as it is, he is going to have to improve or he’ll just see more time on the bench.
In other news, Scott Baker is close to returning to the team. He pitched very well in his rehab start for the Ft. Myers Miracle, and should be back with the team by Wednesday. Kevin Slowey was devastated by the loss of Nick Adenhart, who he considered ‘a little brother‘. The two were teammates on the 2006 Olympic team, and were planning to catch up during the upcoming series in Anaheim. The driver who caused the fatal crash, Andrew Gallo, is apparently going to be facing murder charges.
Oh, yeah, and the Wild defeated the Predators in a blowout of their own, 8-4, at the X. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter as St. Louis and Anaheim both picked up vital points and have thus eliminated Minnesota from playoff contention. Too little, too late, boys.
- Team USA poops the proverbial bed
Well, things got off to a good start for the Americans. Brian Roberts hit a leadoff home run against Daisuke Matsuzaka. And then things kind of went downhill from there. The Japanese would score nine runs, only five of which were actually earned. Team USA’s defense was atrocious. Officially the Americans committed three errors, but unofficially it was probably closer to five or six. Obviously they didn’t want the Venezuelan record of five errors in a WBC game to stand (those commie ********!) and were trying their hardest to set a new standard in horrible defense. Either that or they simply forgot that this was a single-elimination game.
Japan now gets to defend its WBC title against Korea tonight. It’s kind of disappointing that the US didn’t make it to the finals, but this should be a very good game. These two teams are powerhouses of Asian baseball, sort of like the Yankees and the Red Sox of the far east. I don’t have a particular favorite to win it all, but I guess I’ll root for the defending champs. Which of course means that Korea is going to win. I mean, look at my track record so far.
- Twins beat Toronto, 11-6
The offense finally decided to score some runs in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays. Justin Morneau had a three-run homer, his first big blast of the season. Morny had a very good day at the plate, going 2-for-2 with a walk (apparently Morny has been taking Harmon Killebrew’s batting advice). Actually, pretty much everybody had a good day at the plate, since Jays’ starter Matt Clement wasn’t very effective. The Twins knocked the righty out after 4 1/3 innings, pounding him for nine runs on six hits.
Our own Scott Baker wasn’t particularly sharp either, giving up four earned runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. He didn’t give up any homers though (for once), and recorded five strikeouts and no walks. Jose Mijares continued to struggle, giving up two earned runs in 2/3 of an inning, and also injured his ankle while trying to cover first. It’s looking more likely that the lefty is going to spend the season in Rochester (although Gardy is stubbornly insisting they can turn him around before the team heads north in two weeks). This might give Brian Duensing an opportunity to make the team if the Twins decide they need another lefty in the ‘pen. Duensing has been a starter his entire career, and did struggle a bit early in the season while in Rochester last year, but has looked really good in his relief appearances during spring training. At least he can get hitters out, anyway.
- Wild shutout Oil at the X
Owen Nolan scored a couple of goals, the Oil scored on themselves, and Niklas Backstrom made himself worth every penny of his four year, $24 million contract extension in one of the closest games the Wild have played all season. They got off to kind of a slow start in the first, though they weren’t helped by some awful officiating. Mikko Koivu got called for a phantom interference penalty on Ales Hemske (that was a beautiful piece of diving), and Dan Fritsche got called for boarding when he barely touched Ladislav Smid. I don’t normally complain about officiating, but this was ridiculous. Luckily the penalty-killers (and Backs!) stepped up to prevent any sort of ill-gotten gains by the Oilers.
Marian Gaborik made his triumphant return to the ice after having surgery on his hip. Though he didn’t score any goals, it was just really good to see him out there again. Unfortunately, captain Mikko Koivu suffered a knee injury when he was pulled down by Ales Kolatik and will be out the rest of the week. He might even miss the rest of the season, which means the Wild might as well forget about playing hockey past April. Come on, Mikko. Just rub some dirt on it and you’ll be fine.
If you think Vancouver sucks, clap your hands
If you think Vancouver sucks and they’ll never win the Cup
If you think Vancouver sucks, clap your hands
I really shouldn’t mock the Canucks for this hilarious piece of epic fail. They are a lock to make the playoffs after all, and my
Mild Wild will be lucky if they manage to sneak in as the eighth seed (although beating the Oil certainly helps). But there is nothing quite as satisfying as watching a hated rival do something so ridiculously dumb. Especially when your own team has been doing so many ridiculously dumb things as of late.
- Dutch eliminated in WBC, 9-3
Team Hollandaise was sent packing in spectacular fashion by the heavy-hitting American team last night. The USA pounded the Dutch pitchers for nine runs on twelve hits, including a two-run homer by Jimmy Rollins and a solo shot by Adam Dunn. The Dutch, on the other hand, eked out a mere three runs (though they also had twelve hits). Things got a little chippy in the eighth, when Bryan Englehardt spent a little too much time admiring his solo shot (the Dutch were down 8-1 at this point) off of reliever Matt Lindstrom. Lindstrom proceeded to throw behind Vince Rooi, and both benches were warned. That was about as close to any actual fighting as the two sides got, and the Dutch would score one more run on a sac fly before the US put the game away in the bottom of the inning.
As I’ve said before, the Americans had a lot more on the line in this game than the Dutch. The US was absolutely embarrassed in the 2006 WBC when they failed to make it past the first round. They had already been humiliated by the Puerto Ricans, and a loss by the underwhelming Netherlands team would have struck a blow to the already-flagging interest in the tournament on the part of American baseball fans. The Dutch, on the other hand, weren’t even expected to win a game in the WBC, let alone knock off a Dominican team that was loaded with major-league talent. Losing to the Americans will do nothing to diminish interest in baseball or the WBC in the Netherlands, considering that there wasn’t much to begin with.
There is some bad news for Team USA (and the Marlins): Matt Lindstrom has a strained rotator cuff and will be unable to pitch for at least 10 days. This isn’t the first time the Americans have suffered injuries in the WBC, Chipper Jones, Ryan Braun, and Dustin Pedroia have all suffered injuries of varying seriousness. While none of these guys are likely miss any of the season, fans and baseball executives alike are all nervous about their favorite players suffering devastating injury in a tournament that isn’t very important to them. This is one of the major criticisms of the WBC: that it is held during spring training, when guys aren’t quite in game-shape and are much more injury-prone. It has gotten so bad that Team USA manager Davy Johnson has threatened to forfeit the tournament if anyone else gets hurt.
- Twins fall to Yankees 5-1
I’m not going to harp on the lack of offensive production in Sunday’s game at Steinbrenner field, considering that the lineup was full of guys who have no chance to make the team this year (though the few regulars who were in did pretty well, except for Denard Span). I’m also not going to rake anyone over the coals for the piss-poor defense, either. While no Twins players were actually charged with any errors, those of us who actually saw the game know better. There were some defensive miscues by the infield, and a dropped pop fly by SS Trevor Plouffe that led to some not-so-earned Yankee runs. While Glen Perkins officially gave up three earned runs on five hits, in truth he probably gave up one earned run on three hits. Other than that, the pitching was really good (aside from Bobby Keppel, but he’s probably going to start the season in AAA). Nick Blackburn pitched two spotless innings in relief, and gave up only one hit while recording a strikeout. Blackburn is scheduled to make his next start on Tuesday, as the soreness in his knee is apparently gone now. Philip Humber will start in his place today against Baltimore.
By the way, Perk is apparently fine after getting hit in the calf by Hideki Matsui’s broken bat (he even got Matsui to sign it). He wanted to come back out and pitch the fourth, but the team decided not to take any chances on the projected fourth starter for a spring exhibition game and put in Nick Blackburn instead. He should make his next start against the Yankees on Friday.
Andy Pettite looked really sharp on the mound for the Yanks, shutting out the Twins for three innings. More importantly, though, Jorge Posada caught three innings without experiencing any pain in his shoulder. He also went 2-for-2 and plated a pair of runs. That is very good news for Yankee fans who already have enough to worry about as it is.
- Twins vs O’s
The Twins were hitting! And not stranding that many runners for once! Most importantly, Denard Span went 2-for-3 with a triple, which is his first extra-base hit of the season I believe. Span has been struggling at the plate so far, and it appeared in yesterday’s game against the Yankees as though his timing was off. It was pretty clear that he was seeing the ball well, as he was taking a lot of pitches and was working some deep counts. However, he would end up either grounding out or popping out, and it appeared he was a little in front of the ball. Hopefully Span has finally found his swing. Joe Crede hit a two-run homer in the third with two outs, that put the Twins on top for good. Crede hasn’t been having a good spring, either, but considering that he only played in 91 games last year because of his back, and that he tends to be a bit of a slow starter, it’s a little too early to panic just yet.
And Philip Humber pitched well, giving up no hits and no runs while striking out two in his two innings of work. Actually, the only runs given up by Twins pitchers were by guys who will most likely spend the season in Rochester: Armando Gabino (leadoff homer to Aubrey Huff) and Sean Henn (another leadoff homer to catcher Guillermo Rodriguez). Oh, and Rule 5 draft pick Jason Jones gave up one run on four hits in two innings. I’m not sure if Jones is going to remain on the roster or not. Although the Twins will have to offer him back to the Yankees if they choose to send him down, it doesn’t sound like the Yanks are too interested in him so some sort of deal might be worked out.
- Still No Mauer News
There’s still no official word on what is ailing Joe Mauer. According to the Star Tribune, he was in the clubhouse this morning and seemed to be in a good mood, so maybe there isn’t anything seriously wrong. While it would be nice to know what, if anything, is going on, I doubt it is serious otherwise there would have been some sort of announcement by now. At least that’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.
- Delmon Young shows up at TwinsFest and he’s in shape!
I will take this as a good sign. It’s an understatement to say that Young is not exactly a fan favorite. Although he’s behaved himself for the most part, he got off to a very slow start and isn’t one of the best defensive outfielders I’ve ever seen. To make matters worse, the players who were shipped off to Tampa Bay ended up playing an integral part of the Ray’s’ amazing run. Matt Garza is becoming a superstar, and Jason Bartlett provided a significant upgrade in the infield defense. Watching the Rays play in the World Series while our own team didn’t even make the playoffs was kind of tough. Coupled with the fact that his own manager expressed doubts about him as an everyday player, and it’s not surprising that so many fans were demanding a trade.
Although I didn’t think the trade made much sense in the first place, I could at least understand the reasoning behind it. The Twins were in need of another power right-handed bat and they had pitching to spare. And even though Matt Garza had a great arm, his inability to control his emotions was having a negative impact on his effectiveness (and apparently the coaching staff was losing patience with him). However, what made the trade seem questionable is that Young’s numbers (.288/.316/.408) were not good enough to be considered a fair trade for someone like Garza. It was obvious that Young isn’t really a power hitter; he’s more like Raul Ibanez: a slap hitter with some power who gets on base a lot and drives in a lot of runs. These types of hitters are not that difficult to find, and certainly aren’t worth giving up a prized pitching prospect.
Having said all that, I think the Twins have been smart to hang onto Young, at least through this season. It’s not likely that they would’ve gotten anything of value for him in a trade, since he didn’t put up great numbers and it would just look as though he’s a problem the Twins are trying to dump off on someone else. I do think that Young has a lot of upside, given his age, and could become a valuable part of the lineup if he puts forth the effort to develop his talent. He’s at least aware of the fact that his numbers were disappointing last season, and has expressed a willingness to work hard and improve. And who knows? Maybe competing for the starting job will give him the motivation he needs.