Thursday, August 19, 2010
Twins Win Again!
Leading Off with Quick Hits:
· I posted a blog on the StarTribune.com TwinsCentric page last night with an update on the 2010 Twins draft. Now that the signing deadline has passed, who did the Twins sign, and how have those guys been playing?
· Finally, in conjunction with Sooze, the next TwinsCentric Viewing Party will be Saturday, August 28th, and this time, we are heading out of the Metro and up highway 10 or highway 94 to St. Cloud. It will be held at Howie’s Sports Bar in down town St. Cloud. There will be prizes and drink and appetizer specials. And, as always, it’s just fun to bring a bunch of Twins fans together. I always tell people that the outstate produces more Twins fans than the Metro, so help prove me right!
For the second straight night, the Twins were able to get in the end zone and kick the extra point. On Tuesday night, the White Sox got two field goals but were unable to hold the late lead. On Wednesday night, the White Sox got a touchdown, but were unable to take advantage of it by missing the extra point. Two straight games ended with a final score of Minnesota 7, Chicago 6. And in both games, the White Sox had their opportunities. On Tuesday night, they fought back and took the lead only to see Jim Thome walk-off in the bottom of the 10th with a long blast. On Wednesday night, the Sox were unable to take full advantage of a wild Francisco Liriano.
But this is where it is important to look at the big picture. The Twins beat the White Sox on Wednesday night and now hold a five game lead over the Sox in the AL Central. Think about that for a second. Last Tuesday when the Twins were set to start a three game series in Chicago, the two teams were tied atop the division. The two teams split the first two games of that series. So going into last Thursday’s game, the two teams were again tied. That means that in the last seven days, each team has played six games and the Twins have gained five games in the standings on the White Sox. It is incredible how quickly things can change. Of course, remember in late May, the Twins had a 9 ½ game lead on the White Sox, and it was not long before the Twins were four games behind the White Sox in the division. So, regardless of what happens tonight, there still are a lot of games to be played, and nothing is yet guaranteed. The Twins are now 70-50 and have 42 more games to play. The Twins are twenty games over .500. How about this… the Twins Magic Number to clinch the American League Central title is 38.
With that, let’s take a quick look at the Good and the Bad from last night’s game. Fortunately, there should be much more good than bad!
· Joe Mauer – He is pretty good at playing the game, baseball. Since the All-Star break, he is now hitting .446. He has raised his batting average from .295 to .335 in no time. He is a doubles machine, tied for the league lead with 39 doubles. He is on pace to set a new doubles record for catchers. He had four more hits last night including his very first official home run at Target Field, a line drive to left field that barely went over the fence.
· Michael Cuddyer – Cuddy went 3-4 in the game and is 5-9 in this series. Always a streaky hitter, Cuddyer was 0-9 in the Oakland series (with three walks). He went 5-12 in last week’s series in Chicago. Or, maybe he just plays his best when the team is playing its best competition. Also, his 1B defense has become very good.
· Denard Span – He had another two hits on this night. He now has four multi-hit games in his last six games. Not only that, but he has started to hit the ball with more authority.
· Ron Gardenhire’s Bullpen Usage – Jeff Manship replaced Francisco Liriano and had a 1-2-3 sixth inning. He got one out in the seventh inning and allowed one single. With the middle of the White Sox lineup coming up, Gardy brought Jesse Crain into the game and he got the job done! Again! He then got three more outs in the eighth inning. Credit obviously goes to these two pitchers as well, but I thought that the usage of the best bullpen arm against the best hitters from the White Sox was great strategy by the Twins manager.
· Francisco Liriano might be fighting a little dead arm phase. He went just five innings last night and walked four. That is the alarming number. But he struggled with control in and out of the strike zone. The four walks show the lack of control outside the strike zone, but the fastball right down the middle to Andruw Jones (that he launched into the Twins bullpen) shows lack of control in the strike zone. In his past three starts, Liriano has gone only a combined 15.1 innings. He will be fine, but the most beneficial thing of getting a large lead would be to feel more comfortable giving Liriano and Pavano some extra rest.
· Matt Capps – “Threevolts” tweeted during the top of the 9th “Capps has become the new Guardado.” Fair, but I responded by saying, “Capps has become the new Rauch.” Let’s face it, even if Capps looks a little better as a closer than Rauch, there is a reason that his overall numbers were so similar to Jon Rauch’s numbers. Yes, he throws a mile or two per hour faster than Rauch, but he is almost as hittable. I still stand by my comment that adding Capps does make the Twins bullpen a little bit better, but I will also stand by my comment that giving up Wilson Ramos, who was called up by the Nationals, for him was WAY too much.
· Gardy’s Repko Usage – Don’t get me wrong, I like Jason Repko and think that his defense is terrific. However, I don’t understand why Gardy insists on putting him into the game late in place of Jason Kubel. If we have visually seen anything in the Twins outfield, it is that Jason Kubel doesn’t do a bad job out there, and if he gets to a ball, he catches it. He does a nice job playing the wall and has a very strong arm. Meanwhile, Delmon Young struggles out in left field. He is not a real natural outfielder in left, and even if he gets to a ball, it isn’t a certain out. He does have a very strong, accurate arm though. I guess my comment would be that I don’t know that it is Jason Kubel is the one outfielder that would or should require a defensive replacement. In fact, I think an argument could be made that Denard Span in centerfield of late could be the outfielder replaced.
Here is a quick glance at what happened on Wednesday in the Twins minor league system:
Red Wings Report
The Red Wings lost in the bottom of the ninth at Buffalo 7-6. Nick Blackburn made another start. He gave up five runs (4 earned) on eight hits and a walk. In 5.1 innings, he struck out five. Kyle Waldrop got the final two outs of the sixth inning, but not before allowing an unearned run and the two inherited runners to score. Anthony Slama then threw two shutout innings. Rob Delaney got two outs in the ninth but then allowed the final run to score. Matt Tolbert went 3-4. Brandon Roberts went 2-5. Erik Lis hit his fourth Triple-A home run and drove in three runs. He has been on a tear.
New Britain Notes
Chris Province was the story in the Rockcats 3-1 win over Richmond. Province came to the Twins organization from the Red Sox in exchange for Boof Bonser before spring training. Province has been forced to make a few spot starts for the team, and on this night, he was very good. He gave up one run on two hits over the first 6.2 innings. Carlos Gutierrez came on and got the final seven outs, three on strikeouts, to record his second save. Chris Parmelee went 2-4. Jair Fernandez hit his fourth home run, a two run blast.
The Miracle figured out Rays top prospect Matt Moore after seeing him late last week and beat Charlotte 5-0. Angel Morales was 2-4 with his ninth double and three RBI. He also stole his ninth base. Nick Romero went 2-4 with his 22nd double. Ramon Santana was 2-3. But Kane Holbrooks was again up for the challenge. The 2009 draft pick threw seven shutout innings. He gave up seven hits, walked two and struck out six. Dakota Watts came in and got the final six outs.
The Snappers got a big 14-7 win over Wisconsin. Reggie Williams went 3-6 with his third triple, sixth home run and three RBI. Lance Ray went 3-3 with a walk and his 6th and 7th doubles. Michael Gonzales went 3-5 with his 22nd and 23rd doubles and four RBI. Danny Rams was 2-5 with a walk and his 26th double. Michael Harrington was 2-5 with his first double. Yorby Martinez was 2-5. Aaron Hicks returned to the lineup and went 1-4 with two walks. Clinton Dempster was the recipient of the great run support. He went the first five innings and gave up three runs (2 earned) on six hits. He walked two and struck out five. Matt Tone gave up two runs on two hits and a walk in two innings. Zach See worked a perfect inning. Andrei Lobanov came in and gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in his inning.
Elizabethton and the rest of the Appalachian League did not have games scheduled for this game.
GCL Twins Topics
The Twins lost 3-1 to the Rays. Cesar Ciurcina started and gave up just one run on three hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out seven. Hein Robb gave up two runs on four hits and a walk in two innings. Bart Carter pitched the ninth and was perfect. Rory Rhodes and Kennys Vargas were both 2-4 and had four of the team’s six hits.
Any questions or comments on the Twins or the minor league system? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.