What is it about these Twins lads? Nothing is ever straightforward with them, but I suppose that makes watching them all the more exciting, and sometimes, an anxiety-ridden experience. With a 10-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth against the A’s last night, Scott Baker was three outs away from a complete game shut out. But of course, it was never going to be that easy. So, instead of talking about a successful offensive performance by the Twins last night, we’re instead discussing how they almost blew it again.
Baker loaded the bases with a walk and a couple of singles, so in came Jesse Crain. Of course, Jesse did what Jesse does best: choke in vital situations. Adam Kennedy got a single off him which scored two, Jack Cust walked, and Chris Denofria got an infield single which Alexi Casilla fumbled (so not necessarily Crain’s fault this time) to score another. Turns out Casilla had already made a couple of mistakes earlier, so the quicker he gets sent back down to Rochester, the better. When Nick Punto returns on Friday (from what I’m reading on other blogs), Gardy will probably keep Brendan Harris at short-stop and put Punto at second, so it’ll likely be bye-bye Casilla.
With the score at 10-3, in came Jose Mijares, fresh from his cross-dressing exploits. He got Jason Giambi swinging for a vital first out, but then walked Kurt Suzuki to score one AND Daric Barton to score yet another, so now the game was at 10-5.
So would you believe it, this has now become a save situation, what with the bases loaded and the tying run in the on-deck circle. Thankfully, Joe Nathan emerged from the bullpen and was inch perfect, showing all those young’uns exactly how it’s done. He made short work of things and struck out Jack Hannahan and Rajai Davis for his 12th save of the season.
The win for Minnesota stopped their three-game losing skid, and put an end to Oakland’s impressive seven-game winning streak. The A’s young rookie pitching roster looks very promising, and I’m sure they’ll perform well this year, but whether they’ll be able to last out the long season is a different matter. And, as usual, even faced with virtually impossible odds in the ninth, their batters still hustled and played hard until the end.
Right now, the series is tied at one apiece with two more to go tonight and tomorrow. Obviously, us Twins fans will be hoping to finally get a good string of road victories under our belts, but Oakland won’t make that an easy task.
Man, these guys shouldn’t even be allowed to leave the Twin Cities! Another poor road trip, this time in Tampa Bay, saw the Twins only win one of three. Minnesota is still a fairly embarrassing 6-16 on the road, and this was just their second win in 13 games away from the Metrodome. Their Sunday performance was a nail biter, but the win was a very welcome one after two poor showings on Friday and Saturday. Nick Blackburn pitched a good game, only giving up a couple of solo home runs, and the Twins hustled home a few runs to claim a scrappy 3-2 victory.
On Friday night, Scott Baker started well enough, but yet again had one of his mental breakdowns in the sixth inning, giving up a three-run homer to Evan Longoria. The Twins rallied a bit later on, but couldn’t get enough going and ended up losing 5-3. When Brian Buscher (.183) has to pinch hit for Carlos Gomez (.219), as happened in the ninth inning, you know there’s definitely something wrong with your line-up, even if that was the right move in the circumstances.
Saturday’s game was even more pitiful. There’s definitely something odd going on with Francisco Liriano, who only lasted four innings for the third straight time. He threw 47 (yes, 47) pitches in the third inning and gave up four runs, after which, I gave up watching. The Twins organization need to do something with poor Frankie, I’m not confident the whole “working out his issues on the mound” thing is really going to pan out if Minnesota wants to remain competitive. Saturday’s game also featured a woeful base-running decision by Scott Ulger, stopping Joe Crede at third after an overthrow instead of waving him home. Sure, it may have been a risky play to send Crede home, but with the way David Price was pitching, the Twins weren’t going to get many chances to score runs, and we blew one right there. Naturally, Alexi Casilla failed to get the run home the next at-bat.
Talking of which, Alexi is back. Nick Punto is on the DL with a groin injury, so the Twins brought back Alexi Casilla who they’d sent down a few weeks ago. The lack of batting production of players like Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla, Delmon Young, and Matt Tolbert is really beginning to hurt Minnesota’s chances of success this year. But it’s not just sucky performances, injury woes continue to mount for the Twins. Jason Kubel had a dodgy knee that kept him out of a couple of games, Joe Crede has had a few unlucky niggles here and there, Michael Cuddyer left Sunday’s game with a finger injury, and we’ve already mentioned Nick Punto who the Twins probably miss more in the field than with the bat.
Usually, I like to end each posting with a positive note, but today I’m just cranky. Even excuses like “it’s still early in the season” are starting to sound a little hollow now we’re almost one-third of the way through. Still, the AL Central doesn’t have a team storming away uncontested like the Dodgers in the NL West, so yes, OK, “there’s still plenty of time to go”. Checking the standings again though, Detroit are the only team who are over the .500 mark in the division, and Minnesota are 4.5 games back, certainly not cause for panic, but nevertheless a little disconcerting.
After three games at home entertaining the steadily improving Indians, the Twins upcoming 10-game extended road trip with stops in Oakland, Seattle, and Chicago (Cubs) could prove to be vital to their hopes this year.
As expected, struggling switch-hitter Alexi Casilla has been sent down to Triple-A Rochester, while infielder Matt Tolbert has been recalled. I think Gardy gave Alexi enough chances to prove himself, but apart from his poor batting (.167 in 24 games), he’d also been having problems defensively, and is evidently lacking the confidence required to play with the big boys. I feel bad for poor Alexi, but he had it coming unfortunately.
Brendan Harris will probably be back in the line-up, batting in the second spot, especially against right-handers, but I’m also hoping Carlos Gomez gets a few more opportunities to prove himself too.
Sadly, I don’t think this will be the last roster move the Twins will make this season. Unless things really pick up for Minnesota over the coming weeks, I’d expect a few pitching changes unless the struggling bullpen redeems itself. Of course, the capabilities of the bullpen depend so much on the offense being hot and starting pitching being solid, but right now, there may be a need for future roster changes if the bullpen can’t pull its weight.
Today’s concerns are brought to you by the letter C
Cuddyer: Should we be worried about Cuddles? He seems to be striking out an awful lot this year, but is Ron Gardenhire perhaps a little too stubborn to put him on the bench for a while? Evidently, he’s a popular ‘leader’ in the clubhouse, and a great outfielder, but I’m beginning to think he might be having problems right now.
Catcher: Which one should be sent down when Joe Mauer returns? Although Jose Morales has shown a bit more promise with the bat lately, I think Mike Redmond has thoroughly earned his place on the roster over the past years, and his hack and slash ability in clutch situations might be more reliable. But I must admit, I think Morales is very promising, and it’ll be kind of sad to see him not getting any more games just when he’s flourishing.
Carlos: Who? Carlos Gomez of course! Some say he should be sent down to Triple-A Rochester for a while too. It might happen. Many believe his center field defense is important, but I guess if he was gone, it’d be the Young-Span-Cuddyer combo every night… right now I kind of like the fact that Gardy is mixing it up, and I’ve already expressed concerns about Cuddyer above.
Casilla: Poor Alexi. He hasn’t had a great start to the season with the bat, and has looked a little vulnerable at second base, but hopefully he’ll pull his socks up and improve soon.
Crede: His name begins with C too!