Thursday Night, August 12, 2010
Round 3: Twins Top Sox, Take Lead Back
The Twins and their fans felt great after Tuesday night’s 12-6 win over the White Sox. On Wednesday, the Twins looked lethargic and played bad baseball in a 6-1 loss during which the game was never in question. On Thursday, the Twins won by that same score of 6-1, and yet, in my mind at least, this was as intense a game as there has been this year. This game had drama throughout. That is, until Jason Kubel’s 7th inning home run turned a two run lead into that five run lead. Liriano was not at his best most of the game, but when he put himself into bad situations, he found it within himself to find his best stuff and worked out of those situations. The bullpen came through huge. This was just a great game, and at the end of the day, the Twins won two out of three on the road, at US Cellular Field and reclaimed a one game lead in the division. The Twins have been playing terrific baseball for a month now again.
Here are some notes from tonight’s game:
· Before even getting to the game, the Twins front office was busy with a few transaction decisions. Jose Mijares did require a trip to the Disabled List, so the Twins recalled Jeff Manship for the fourth or fifth time this year. When I wrote out various options for pitchers at Rochester who could take Mijares’s place, I failed to mention Manship. That was a mistake on my part. Despite the fact that Manship has really not pitched well at all in Rochester this year, he has proven himself a capable long relief or spot starter option for the Twins. For some reason, he has pitched significantly better with the Twins. Also, having a second left-handed reliever is a luxury. The team really needs a guy who can give them more than two innings when necessary. Manship can do that. Perkins does remain with the team, and he could potentially be a lefty reliever in a few days after his arm recovers from his start. As I wrote yesterday, I still think that having Rob Delaney up in the bullpen would be better than Perkins.
· JJ Hardy was out of the lineup tonight after hurting his wrist again. They don’t believe that it will require a DL trip, and although I have about zero confidence in the Twins medical staff, I will buy it. That said, I would let him rest and give Casilla a few starts in a row… just to be sure.
· Manship was scheduled to start for Rochester on Saturday night. The Twins assigned 2009 top pick Kyle Gibson to the Red Wings, and he will make the start in Manship’s place. It will be interesting to see if Gibson remains with Rochester if and when Manship or Perkins return to AAA.
· There is no question that Francisco Liriano has been one of baseball’s best pitchers most of the season, particularly in the second half of the season. He definitely has struggled in first innings in games that could be construed as “big.” You can tell immediately by two things. First, his fastball flies up and away to right-handed batters. His slider is over-thrown and bounces near the feet of a right hander. He got himself into trouble with a walk and a hit batter in the first inning. He somehow got out of it with just one run allowed. He looked terrific in innings two through four. Then he started overthrowing again and issued another walk in the 5th inning. Miraculously, Liriano was able to get out of the inning without allowing a run. It was absolutely remarkable. He got a weak groundball back to himself and got the force out at home. Then he struck out Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin to end the inning. He again loaded the bases in the 6th. Thanks to a great Denard Span catch, he got the second out. But when Ron Gardenhire came out to ask if he could continue, Liriano must have said something that made it clear to the Twins manager that it was Matt Guerrier time. Thankfully, Guerrier got Alexei Ramirez to pop out to end the inning.
· By the way, Liriano became the first Twins pitcher this year to get out of a bases loaded, no one out situation in 2010. In 2009, Joe Nathan and Nick Blackburn each did it once.
· I love this game. It is full of second guess opportunities. Here are some:
· After loading the bases in the 6th, for the second straight inning, Francisco Liriano got the second out. Gardy came out to ask the lefty how he was doing. Immediately, he called for Matt Guerrier to come into the game. I questions Liriano for not saying, “It’s my game Gardy. Let me get this one more out.” Guerrier came in and got the third out. In the top of the 7th, with two runners on and two outs, Ozzie Guillen went out to the mound and likely asked his starter, Gavin Floyd, if he wanted to stay in the game. Floyd stayed in the game and gave up a three-run homer to Jason Kubel, who he had owned the first three AB of the game. Meanwhile, lefty Chris Sale was warmed up in the bullpen and came in one batter later to get Michael Cuddyer out.
· Also in the 7th inning, with Casilla at second after a leadoff double, many would want Denard Span to sacrifice bunt Casilla to 3B. Since Span is left-handed, and has been really good at grounding out to 2B and 1B the last few weeks, I don’t care if he bunted or grounded out. The goal of the end of his at bat was for Casilla to be at 3B.
· Consider this: Before tonight’s game, Jason Kubel had played in 64 career games against the White Sox and had 216 at bats. His line was .301/.347/.606 (954 OPS) with 11 doubles, 17 home runs and 59 RBI. Make that 18 home runs, and 62 RBI.
· The Twins bullpen was definitely short-handed. It would have been great to have Liriano go deeper into the game. But he didn’t, and the bullpen did a terrific job of being good and efficient. Matt Guerrier got four outs and threw just 12 pitches. Jesse Crain pitched a scoreless 8th inning and threw just nine pitches. Matt Capps, who threw six innings a night earlier, pitched a scoreless ninth frame and threw just 16 pitches. That was big.
· The lone negative was the at bats of Danny Valencia. He was 0-4, and he twice grounded into tailor-made double plays. He is now 5-45 (.111) since August 2nd which has dropped his average from .400 to .312. It will be quite interesting to see what happens when Nick Punto comes back. Will Gardy stand by a struggling rookie, as Ozzie Guillen did with Gordon Beckham, or will he hand the job back to Punto?
· Did everyone note that Jesse Crain’s season ERA is now 2.98? He has been incredible.
· The Twins head home, but the schedule just might get even more difficult. The Oakland A’s, who have a terrific young pitching staff, comes to Target Field for three games. Then next week, the White Sox come to Target Field for three more games. Then three games against the Angels followed by three games against the Rangers. We could experience a lot of intense games the rest of the season. Should be a lot of fun!
So what were your thoughts and emotions throughout the game? Comments.
Here is a quick glance at what happened on Thursday in the Twins minor league system (plenty of extra baseball:
Red Wings Report
The Red Wings got great pitching and beat Gwinnet 2-0. Nick Blackburn made his third start for the Red Wings. He was solid. In five shutout innings, he gave up four hits, walked three and struck out three. He got nine ground outs to just one fly out. Tim Lahey came in and threw two more scoreless innings. Rob Delaney got the save with two more scoreless innings. He struck out three. He now has one walk and 23 strikeouts in 16 innings since the All Star break. Brandon Roberts and Brian Dinkelman each went 2-4. Dustin Martin was 0-1 with three walks. Brock Peterson knocked his 17th home run of the year.
New Britain Notes
The Rockcats lost 6-1 to Erie on Thursday night. Chris Province started again and gave up five runs on six hits in 4.1 innings. He walked three and struck out two. Mike McCardell came in and threw 2.2 scoreless innings. He gave up just one hit, walked two and struck out four. Steve Hirschfeld gave up a run in his inning. The Rockcats managed just seven hits. Joe Benson went 2-4, and Chris Parmelee drove in the lone rone.
Nate Hanson has been terrific for the Miracle. On this night, he was 3-5 with a triple and a stolen base. But it wasn’t enough as the Miracle fell 8-6 to Charlotte. Angel Morales went 2-4 with a walk. Jonathan Goncalves went 2-4 with his eighth double. Dan Osterbrock has been terrific, but on this night, he had allowed four runs before recording an out. However, he came through for the team and gave them seven innings. He gave up five runs on 12 hits. Shooter Hunt got two outs and walked six batters. Blake Martin got the final out.
The Snappers got two great pitching performances and held on for a 2-0 win in Peoria. The Snappers managed just five hits. Lance Ray and Wang-Wei Lin each drove in a run. In his second Midwest League start, Pedro Guerra threw seven shutout innings. He gave up four hits, walked three and struck out four. Nelvin Fuentes came out and got the final six batters out, all on strikeouts.
Down 5-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, the E-Twins mounted an impressive comeback. Brian Burke singled in Nate Roberts to tie the game at five a piece. Daniel Ortiz came up with two on and drilled a three-run homer to end the game and give the Twins the win. It was Ortiz’s seventh home run of the year. Roberts went 2-2 with three walks and his third home run. Manuel Soliman started and gave up three runs on six hits in four innings. He walked two and struck out four. Ryan O’Rourke then came in and gave up two runs on four hits and a walk in three innings. Dallas Gallant made his professional debut. He pitched the final two innings and gave up just one hit. He struck out two for the win.
GCL Twins Topics
The GCL Twins and Orioles had their game postponed by rain.
Any thoughts on the Twins or the minor league system? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.