Sunday Night, May 4, 2008
Twins on Top!
Here we are, after the games of Sunday, May 4th, five weeks into the season. What have we learned about the Twins:
Many of the hitters lack patience (Gomez, Young, Kubel).
The Batting Champ is too patient (Mauer)
Adam Everett wasn't as good as we hoped and we found out it was, in part, because he was injured, so he missed two weeks and Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert played more than we hoped.
Michael Cuddyer missed almost three weeks with a bad finger.
Brendan Harris struggled early at a new position.
This team has little to no power.
The starting staff has certainly had its ups and downs. In fact, you could say that each of the starters has had plenty of ups and downs through six starts.
The Francisco Liriano Experiment failed miserably.
The bullpen has not been dominant. Pat Neshek has had about as many rough outings in 2008 as he had in the first four months of 2007. Matt Guerrier hasn't had hit 2007 form.
And the Manager, General Manager, Coaching staff and others have made plenty of bad decisions to keep bloggers and blog commenters busy. Right?
And yet... five weeks into the season... The Twins have a 1 1/2 game lead in the American Central Division.
Let me just repeat that, you know... for dramatic effect... the Minnesota Twins have a 1.5 game lead in the AL Central.
Of course, detractors will point out that the Twins are just 16-14. They will point out that the Detroit Tigers will be better. Cleveland has to play better.
But why can't the Twins compete all year long? The White Sox have lost five in a row, and I don't think any of us thought that they would keep up their quality play. The Royals, after a great start, have not kept it up. The Tigers, for all of their big names and big contracts, are old and very fragile! Their pitching staff is about as inconsistent as it gets. Cleveland, who I still think is the class of the division, just has not put together yet. Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner have not performed to the levels we could have expected.
The Twins are far from a perfect team. They are young. They have a lot of new players all trying to come together. They lack an ace. But for all of those shortcomings, there are a lot of positives. They have Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer as guys they can count on in the middle of the order. Brendan Harris has been better than expected. Michael Cuddyer and Adam Everett are now healthy which should mean improvement and more consistency in the lineup. Mike Lamb will get better. Jason Kubel should only get better. Carlos Gomez solidifies the outfield defense, getting to more baseballs than we have seen a CF get to in at least three years. Young and Cuddyer have rockets. Delmon Young has to get better offensively! Gomez can do so much if he is just able to find his way on base. Livan is Livan. He's going to have an occasional good start. The young starters will hopefully continue to improve and build on their solid starts. Bonser has been better than expected. Nick Blackburn has been very solid most of the time. Kevin Slowey has only thrown 3.1 innings this year, and he could be one of their better starters. Scott Baker needs to be healthy, but he has been very good. If there are problems, there are a couple of guys at AAA who are close. So is Anthony Swarzak. Neshek is still as good as any reliever in the game. Jesse Crain appears to be back, which is very exciting! Matt Guerrier will be better too. Juan Rincon and Dennys Reyes have both been much improved to this point. And like his contract or not, Joe Nathan is baseball's best closer.
Is my head in the sand? Of course not. Maybe a week from today, the Twins will have lost six in a row and the whole "sky is falling down" phenomenon will be back. I have projected the Twins to win 75-77 games in 2008, and I probably am not quite ready to push them any higher than that level yet. But my main point with today's article? I just think that sometimes we need to just take a step back, rather than just focus so much on the day to day and more so the pitch to pitch and realize that there is a lot of talent. The Twins are doing a lot of things right. Those things need to be pointed out too.
What do you think?
TWINS SWEEP TIGERS
Alright, as I mentioned last week, I was at the Twins/Tigers game Sunday afternoon. I was with a group of people from North Carolina. When Curtis Granderson led off the game with a home run and then the next three batters got on too, I pointed out to the group, "Just in case this doesn't improve, I just have to say that as of this moment, the Twins are in first place in their division!" Six batters later, Boof Bonser recorded his third strikeout of the inning for the third out. The Tigers had six first inning runs, and it had all the makings of a laugher. Justin Morneau drove in Joe Mauer in the third inning, which seemed like a nice run so the team didn't get shutout. An unlikely source, Nick Punto, doubled in two runs in the fifth inning. It didn't hit me right then, but minutes later, I realized that the Twins were just three runs down. Bonser was terrific from his seven pitch second inning through the sixth inning. Despite a 42 pitch first inning, Bonser threw just 99 pitches in six innings. Matt Guerrier pitched a scoreless seventh.
The bottom of the 7th started out just like many other innings in a game. The first two hitters got out. Matt Tolbert then doubled to left. The Twins caught a break when Carlos Guillen booted a Nick Punto grounder. Kenny Roger's day was done with Zach Miner entering. With Carlos Gomez up, the hope was that he would get a bunt hit. Instead, he pounded a ball into the ground, high in the air toward shortstop. Edgar Renteria played it perfectly and threw to first, but Gomez beat the throw by a full step. The deficit was now just two runs. Brendan Harris then drilled a double over Jacque Jones. By the time the ball landed in the outfield bleachers for a ground rule double, Gomez was already rounding third base. He would have scored the tying run, but instead, he had to go back to third base. I sat there thinking that that was the Twins chance. The comeback would end.
Jim Leyland came out and brought in the left Bobby Seay to face Joe Mauer. I was asked, "Who would you rather have up right now, runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs, down by a run? Mauer or Morneau?"
That was an easy answer for me, "Joe Mauer." When the count was 1-2, I had to point out, "I'd still take Mauer, regardless of what happens here." I mean, think about it; Joe Mauer is hitting .333 on the season. That means that he gets a hit one in three at bats. That means that in this situation, as great as he is, it is likely that he would make the third out two out of three times.
On that 1-2 pitch, Mauer bounced a two run single right up the middle, just out of the reach of both Renteria and Placido Polanco. The Twins had completed the comeback and taken the lead. Fortunately, Guerrier threw a scoreless eighth inning, and Joe Nathan picked up his 11th save in 11 save opportunities. The Twins had their sweep.
The game went from, uh-oh, to blah, to at-least-they-scored, to this-is-closer-than-I-would-have-thought, to oh-that-was-close, to holy-wow-the-Twins-are-leading, to did-they-really-just-win-that-game!!
Funniest - Kind Of - Part of the Game --> When Carlos Gomez came to the plate to lead off the top of the 4th against Kenny Rogers, he struck out. However, on the first pitch of the at bat, he absolutely uncoiled. I am shocked that he didn't twist an ankle, pull an oblique, or at least fall over. The crowd ooh and ahh'd. And laughed. I couldn't help but notice the crowd laughed. I laughed. It was an incredible swing. Nothing to show for it, but seriously, how often on a baseball field does the whole crowd just laugh?
One quick thought on the Saturday night game. Scott Baker was able to go just three innings before re-aggravating his groin injury. I really don't think that most fans know just the kind of pain that that injury has on a person. Many also don't understand how difficult it is to come back from it. It takes time and it takes rest. Hopefully this time the Twins will do that. If that means time on the Disabled List, they should do that. Kevin Slowey is ready, and he is starting on Wednesday night in Chicago. I think that the Twins need to make the decision on Baker by the time that they activate Slowey. If the Twins don't think that Baker can start on Saturday, they need to disable him and call up one of the AAA pitchers to start. Probably the worst thing that they could do is not DL Baker and send Bobby Korecky to Rochester. With Slowey making his first start, and Baker uncertain, they need as much relief help as they can have.
One unfortunate thing that is forgotten in the Scott Baker injury is the fact that Brian Bass threw four scoreless relief innings. He really has been very good.
Any other thoughts on the Twins? They do have an off day on Monday, their third off-day in a week, which is ridiculous!
Twins Minor League Updates
Saturday SethSpeaks Player of the Day – Luke Hughes, New Britain Rockcats
Saturday SethSpeaks Pitcher of the Day – Alex Burnett, Ft. Myers Miracle
Sunday SethSpeaks Player of the Day – Luke Hughes, New Britain Rockcats
Sunday SethSpeaks Pitcher of the Day – Alex Burnett, Ft. Myers Miracle
Be sure to check out Roger's Weekly Minor League Update at Twinkie Town. La Velle's Sunday Minor League report is also now available online with the primary section on standout Luke Hughes!
Saturday - Red Wings 0, Toledo 4 – Kevin Mulvey struggled again, and the Red Wings bats managed just four hits in this one. Mulvey gave up four runs on eight hits in just five outs. He walked one and struck out five. He also gave up three home runs. Ricky Barrett, Philip Humber and Heath Totten each threw a scoreless inning. Darnell McDonald went 1-3 with a walk and his fourth stolen base.
Sunday - Red Wings 4, Toledo 8 – Brian Duensing had a rather rough outing in this one. The lefty gave up six earned runs on five hits and four walks in just 5.2 innings. Julio DePaula gave up a run on two walks in one inning. Carmen Cali came in and gave up a hit and a walk in just 1/3 of an inning. Casey Daigle struck out two in a shutout inning. Alexi Casilla went 3-4. Darnell McDonald went 2-4 with an RBI double. Garrett Jones and Ryan Jorgenson each hit a home run for the Red Wings.
NEW BRITAIN NEWS
Saturday - Rockcats 6, New Hampshire 4 – Luke Hughes led the way (again) with a 4-5 day. He hit his seventh double and is now hitting .386 on the year. Dustin Martin went 2-5 with his second triple and three RBI. Drew Butera went 2-4. Matt Moses, Erik Lis and Steve Tolleson each hit a double. Jay Rainville has had a few bad starts in a row, but he got the win in this game with five solid innings. He gave up two runs on five hits and a walk in five innings. Both runs came on solo homers. Zach Ward threw a scoreless sixth inning. Jay Sawatski and Danny Graves combined to give up two runs in two innings. Armando Gabino then picked up his second save with a scoreless ninth.
Sunday - Rockcats 6, New Hampshire 5 – The Rockcats scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth, the second on a two out single by Dustin Martin. Trevor Plouffe led the offense. He went 3-4 with his seventh double and his second home run. Matt Moses was 2-4 with a 10th inning double. Dustin Martin was 2-4 with a walk. Oswaldo Sosa gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings. He walked one and struck out three. Jason Miller came in and threw three perfect innings. Danny Graves improved to 2-0 with a scoreless ninth inning.
FT MYERS MEMOS
Saturday - Miracle 5, Daytona 2 – Alex Burnett put together the best start of his season. The righty went six shutout innings. He allowed five hits and a walk while striking out three. Jose Lugo gave up a run in his inning. Then Anthony Slama gave up a run in two innings but got his fifth save. Brian Dinkelman went 2-3 with two doubles (he now has 11 on the year). Edward Ovalle went 2-4 with his second homer and three RBI. Former Twins top prospect Adam Harben is back in the Florida State League. He had Tommy John surgery a month or two before did, and he returned to the Cubs organization for a couple of appearances in 2007.
Sunday - Miracle 4, Daytona 6 – Top prospect Tyler Robertson got lit up in this start. In five innings, he gave up 14 hits and one walk making the fact that he gave up just six runs (5 earned). Danny Vais then threw three shutout innings before Danny Hernandez pitched a scoreless ninth. Juan Portes went 2-3 with his sixth double, and he was hit by a pitch. Danny Berg went 2-4.
Saturday - Snappers 8, Great Lakes 2 – Ben Revere went 3-5 with his second double and second stolen base. Joe Benson was 2-5 with his sixth double. Chris Parmelee went 2-5 with his sixth home run and three RBI. Garrett Olson and Steve Singleton each went 2-4. Dan Berlind improved to 2-2. He gave up two runs on four hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out five. Loek Van Mil then gave up a hit and two walks in two scoreless innings. Blair Erickson gave up two hits in his inning, but no runs.
Sunday - Snappers 1, Lansing 4 – The Lugnuts scored three runs in the bottom of the 8th off of Brad Tippett to take this game. It's too bad because Brian Kirwan really pitched well. The righty went the first six innings and gave up just one run on four hits. He didn't walk a batter and struck out two. Tippett threw a scoreless seventh frame, but then in the eighth, after a strikeout, he gave up a single, a triple, and a walk before getting his third strikeout. But then a double ended his outing and Spencer Steedley got the final out. Chris Cates led the offense by going 2-3 with a walk. Ben Revere went 2-4 and is now hitting .393 in his short time with the Snappers.
I will be back later with a Q&A with a Twins minor leaguer, so be sure to check back. Have a great Sunday!|
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