Yep, I know, I should be updating this more often, but forgive my lack of entries lately while I still continue to get my life sorted out and find full-time work again so I can get back into some kind of settled routine. In the meantime, here’s a few thoughts from the past few weeks.
- Glen Perkins may, apparently, file a grievance against the Twins for the way they handled his recent injury. I hope it gets settled. I always liked Glen, but it’s clear he couldn’t cut it as a starter and has been really inconsistent, despite showing occasional signs of brilliance.
- Justin Morneau is in a slump again. I like this guy, I think he’s a huge talent, and there’s no denying his value to the Twins is immense. But despite this, he seems to end up going into a slump every single damn season, and always at the most inappropriate time. As many fans noticed, both Justin and Joe Nathan were also whining in the press a couple of months back about how the Twins organization don’t bring in enough new talent via trades, and yet both of these players have been instrumental in recent Twins losses because of their lackluster performances. Of course, both are still hugely valuable players and are usually dominant factors in any Twins’ success, but perhaps they might need to think before they speak or just go about their business quietly and efficiently like Jason Kubel.
- Matt Tolbert and Brain Buscher were both brought back up from Triple-A at the expense of some exciting younger prospects. This kind of bugs me. Both Tolbert and Buscher have proven to be decidedly below average in the majors over the past couple of years, but still the Twins won’t take a chance on some of the newer prospects who they deem “not ready”, despite tearing it up in the minors this year. I find this kind of sad as it seems to be something the Twins have done well in the past. True, not every youngster is going to cut it in the big leagues, but one Denard Span is certainly proof of what can happen if you give an unknown young’un a shot. What’s worse, is reading purported stories like this one, which imply that Matt Tolbert’s ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘hard work’ are enough to make him a success, despite his proven lack of talent and ability. What is he, a bloody cheerleader? The crap that spews forth from Ron Gardenhire sometimes is enough to make you crazy.
- Jon Rauch, now a Twins’ relief pitcher after being traded from the D’Backs, has scary googily eyes, but whenever he’s on the mound, I can’t help staring at his neck tattoo which looks to be about the size of Alaska.
Minnesota continued to show why they’re the most schizophrenic team in baseball, switching from glittering performances to ineptitude and back again over three games at the Metrodome.
Thursday’s game was a swift two-hour affair (some kind of MLB Network-only game I think, with two unknown blokes commentating) and Nick Blackburn pitched a complete game, just one out shy of a shut-out, as the Twins emerged 5-1 winners and wrapped up a series victory over the Pirates. Both Brian Buscher (seriously!) and Michael Cuddyer went deep, but this game was all about an ever-impressive Blackburn inducing the Pittsburgh line-up into hitting ground-ball outs pretty much every inning.
However, the Twins performance on Wednesday night, when they lost 8-2 to the Pirates, was probably one of the worst I’ve seen all season. Francisco Liriano didn’t pitch too badly, but gave up a couple of two-run homers. However, with Pittsburgh leading 4-2, the bullpen clowns of Sean Henn and Luis Ayala gave up four more unnecessary runs in the eighth and ninth. Minnesota had numerous opportunities to score, but squandered them once again. Michael Cuddyer tripled in the sixth with one out, but Delmon Young hit into a double play, mainly because Cuddyer had made the foolish decision to break for home. In the seventh, with the bases loaded and only one out, Jason Kubel struck out and Joe Crede grounded out weakly. Delmon also hit into another double play later, and went 0-for-4. It was almost embarrassing watching him at the plate last night, but he was hardly alone, as the Twins failed to produce yet again. Sure, Minnesota has lost games this season when they’ve played poorly, but there was something about this slow, painful game last night that made me thankful that it finally ended.
For some reason, this team has a great deal of trouble staying at (or over) .500, and watching games like these, you can kind of see why. Still, a series victory was earned, and now the Twins face the Houston Astros in three games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Metrodome.
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, Justin Verlander pitched a great game Thursday, with an incredible career-high 13 strikeouts. Everyone’s been talking about Zack Greinke this season, but Verlander has thoroughly looked the part recently. After the crazy antics of the previous night, it wasn’t surprising that today’s game was a fairly low key affair at first, which the Tigers broke open in the sixth inning with five runs. But of course, this is baseball…
Tigers manager Jim Leyland took out Verlander in the seventh inning because he’d thrown 120+ pitches. He’d given up a Brian Buscher base hit and a Nick Punto walk (score: 5-0), but he still looked visibly upset, not surprisingly after such a domineering performance. Cue the Tigers bullpen meltdown, with the Twins scoring six runs to take a 6-5 lead, and just like that, Verlander doesn’t get a result, no more runs scored, and Joe Nathan had a quick and easy ninth to close out the game.
Despite the satisfaction of a series sweep against Detroit, the Twins now face a tricky set of games to round out May. 10 of their 17 upcoming games (without a day off) will be on the road, and their opponents will include the New York Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, and Tampa Bay Rays. Gulp. If Minnesota can make it through that bunch more or less around the .500 mark, I think they’ll have done a good job, but it will be a very testing end to the month for sure.
It was certainly entertaining watching the Twins on Friday and Saturday, especially the Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau show. In the fifth inning on Friday evening against the Mariners, Mauer stepped up and hit a solo home run to left field. Not to be outdone, Justin Morneau came up next and did exactly the same, but to opposite field. While back-to-back home runs are hardly uncommon in baseball, the very next evening against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, Mauer and Morneau did exactly the same thing again, but this time in the third inning. Cue camera shots of the pair of them on the bench laughing and smiling like little kids trying to out-do each other.
Before Saturday’s game, Joe Mauer received both a Gold Glove and a Silver Bat for his brilliant performances last season. Here he is with two former Twins legends, Tony Oliva and Rod Carew.
Friday night, the Twins thumped the Mariners 11-0. Scott Baker pitched splendidly, but our offense truly shone that evening with Minnesota hitting an unprecedented four homers, the solo shots by Mauer and Morneu as mentioned above, and three-run shots by Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher. The Twins got their noses in front early and kept it that way, something they’d been failing to do all season. I hope this is a sign of better things to come.
Saturday was a closer affair, with the Twins beating out the Mariners 9-6. Once again, the Twins went ahead early, but this time Seattle was a little more resilient, and Francisco Liriano had a very tough fourth and fifth inning. Saturday’s game was dominated by Adrian Beltre, but not always for the right reasons. In the bottom of the fourth, he tried to tag Cuddyer at third then overthrew to first, which scored Cuddyer and put Buscher on third. Buscher scored on a Denard Span sacrifice fly, so Beltre’s mistake probably led to two Twins runs. His home run in the eighth could have meant trouble for the Twins, but the rest of the M’s line-up failed to capitalize, and Joe Nathan came out in the ninth to save it for Minnesota, and wrap up a series win.
Sunday will probably see Nick Punto back in the line-up, and Joe Mauer as the DH. Personally, I’d like to see Carlos Gomez get a chance to play a full game again. Completing the sweep against the Mariners and Erik Bedard today will be tough, but then again, if someone would’ve said the Twins will score 20 runs and hit seven home-runs in two games against Seattle, I’d have laughed like a goon.
Better tonight, but the Twins still look fragile. Still, you have to be able to take advantage of the opposing team’s mistakes and punish them, and the Twins did that brilliantly tonight, seizing their opportunity and breaking the hearts of Mariners fans everywhere.
Gardy’s decision to bring in Kubel then Buscher was clutch, and I think the little boost of confidence from tonight’s walk-off victory will be very welcome for the Twins.
Next up: a better pitching performance from our starters. On opening day, Francisco Liriano wasn’t at all bad, and it was the bullpen that looked weak. But tonight, Nick Blackburn only managed to strike out one batter all evening. If Kevin Slowey can hold it together tomorrow and our bats get hot, I think we can say that the 2009 Twins have truly arrived.