You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to think up that horrible pun in the title, and it’s not even funny. Then again, it’s not as if the bullpen performances by Luis Ayala for the Twins this season have been full of mirth and glee.
In a not particularly surprising turn of events, Minnesota designated relief pitcher Luis Ayala for assignment. I’m not sure what kind of assignment exactly. Maybe a “learn how to throw a pitch” assignment. OK, I’m being mean now, because admittedly, if you put me up there, I’d barely be able to chuck it 10 feet, but then again, I don’t get paid $1,300,000 to do my job.
In his place, the Twins called up one Bobby Keppel from Triple-A Rochester. I don’t know much about Bobby Keppel, but I am glad to see the Twins making an effort to do something about the struggling bullpen, especially as the AL Central is still wide open, and Minnesota has as much chance as anyone of winning it.
As I’ve probably mentioned numerous times before, I feel less aggrieved (though, of course, not exactly delighted) when a younger, inexperienced pitcher makes the odd
mistake or gives up a lead as it’s usually a learning experience for
them. What irks me more is when supposedly ‘experienced’ hands (who
the Twins pay millions for) come out onto the mound and throw like
Good luck Bobby, you’re gonna need it. Sean Henn? Better watch your back, dude.
Yeah, I so much wanted that headline to be “Houston, YOU have a problem” but it was a disappointing weekend for the Twins, who lost two of three to the Astros. Houston played moderately well and certainly didn’t decimate the Twins, but Minnesota’s offense barely got going all weekend. With tough games on the road this week against the Cardinals and the Brewers, this last home stand was an opportunity to forge ahead, but Minnesota remains stubbornly just below the .500 mark for now.
Reading the triumphant 5-2 scoreline of Friday’s game, it might look to the casual observer that the Twins had a comfortable win, but this was far from the case. Kevin Slowey pitched well enough to get his tenth victory of the year, but in the top of the eighth inning, when Houston made it a one-run game, a Twins victory was far from assured. Fortunately, in the bottom of the eighth, Delmon Young managed to secure the 5-2 lead with a cheesey double that leftfielder Jason Michaels lost in the lights, but it was a far-from convincing victory.
Saturday’s game was just, well, kind of annoying. Minnesota managed all their runs via home runs with Brendan Harris, Delmon Young, Joe Mauer, and Jason Kubel all going deep. Trouble is, they did little else. Taking a 3-1 lead into the seventh, Scott Baker gave up a couple of runs and the score was tied at 3-3, so disappointing, but not a disaster. That is, until Ron Gardenhire, in his infinite wisdom, decided it was better to just go ahead and lose the game out right, introducing the comedy bullpen clowns once again. Sean Henn gave up a two-run homer, and Luis Ayala allowed another run to score, and despite Jason Kubel’s late-game heroics, and Jose Morales’s pinch-hitting double to make it interesting in the ninth, it was all too late by then, and Houston won the game 6-5.
Sunday: Two hits for the Twins the entire game, one of which was a solo home run shot by Michael Cuddyer. The Astros’ starter, Wandy Rodriguez, completely shut down the Minnesota offense, and Houston’s three-run first inning was more than enough to secure a series victory over a very disappointing and sorry looking Twins line up. Amusingly enough, Carlos Gomez did bunt the ball onto his head at one point, which pretty much summed up the entire weekend for Minnesota.
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.
With the home series tied at one apiece, Cleveland and Minnesota face off today in the rubber match. Scott Baker (2-6) will be up against Fausto Carmino (2-5), both of whom have had less than stellar starts to the season, so it’s really anyone’s game.
Game one saw the Twins earning a 4-3 victory, but it was a closely contested affair, despite the home team being 4-0 up at one point. Joe Mauer was the big hero again going 3-3 with yet another home run in the fifth inning, but the Indians fought back valiantly, and it took Joe Nathan actually being allowed by Gardy to pitch in the eighth to get an out, before closing the ninth completely to secure the win.
Notable from this particular game were two excellent defensive plays which probably saved runs from scoring. In the top of the third with two outs and a man at first, Victor Martinez hit a huge fly ball to center, and Carlos Gomez completed an incredibly athletic catch to end the inning. To me, this just shows that even a poor-hitting Carlos Gomez is much less of a liability than a poor-hitting Delmon Young, and probably why the former should be playing more regularly than the latter. There’s very few folks in the Twins line-up who could make that catch, let alone the league! Earlier that same inning, Brendan Harris and Justin Morneau also combined for a great play that saved a probable hit. I’m sure Nick Punto might have got that one too, but while Harris has shown to still be a little nervy playing short-stop, he looks to be improving, and offensively he’s certainly more productive than Nick Punto.
Game two wasn’t such a good one for the Twins though, losing 10-1. Anthony Swarzak, after making two great starts, was humbly brought back down to earth with a thud. I think we all knew this was likely to happen eventually. This doesn’t mean he’s a bad pitcher by any means, but it does mean he’ll learn that leaving the ball up in the strike zone in the Majors is going to be trouble. I think he’ll rebound just fine because in baseball there’s just some days when things work out, and others where it seems everything sucks.
RA Dickey had to come in again for some relief pitching, while the comedy bullpen clowns of Ayala and Crain later gave up four runs. When are you going to do something about this pitiful pen, Gardy?
Minnesota’s bats barely even got started against Cliff Lee last night, and there was some silly tiff between him and Carlos Gomez which barely warrants discussion, but I think I know who would win in a fist-fight, what with Carlos once being a boxer back home in the Dominican Republic! Thankfully, Victor Martinez did a good job playing peacemaker.
Before I go on vacation, some interesting news just emerged. Left handed bullpen pitcher Craig Breslow was just claimed off waivers by the Oakland A’s. To be honest, they’re welcome to him. He hadn’t done much in a Twins uniform, going 1-2 with a 6.28 ERA in 17 games, but I thought he’d be the more likely to ‘come around’ than useless righty Louis Ayala, who pretty much makes me cower under the blanket in fear every time he steps up on the mound to pitch. I’m wondering how much longer Ayala is going to last.
In Breslow’s place, the Twins have called up right hander Anthony Swarzak who’ll probably be the starting pitcher for Saturday’s interleague match-up against the Brewers. Glen Perkins will be back soon enough though, but I wonder if he’ll re-join the starting line-up or be expected to take up a relief spot for a while?
Minnesota has now lost their last five in a row, so it’ll be up to Francisco Liriano to step-up against Chicago and stop the losing streak. But to be honest, I’m taking a few days off from rigorously following the Twins. We definitely need some time apart.
Well, it only took nine-and-a-half games this season for me to walk away mid-game from a Twins broadcast and head upstairs to play a stupid video game. To be honest, I’m surprised it wasn’t sooner. Last night’s performance against the Blue Jays was probably their most pitiful so far, and it’s all the more tragic because it seems the Twins still have a great team, but they’re totally lacking in confidence.
Thankfully, there’s still a long way to go, and things will get better. Some of the best teams make slow starts, and it’s way more tragic to slump later on in the season than it is early (I’m talking to you, Aston Villa, of English Premiership football fame).
I’m hardly the greatest baseball pundit out there, but I do notice a few things:
- Scott Baker shouldn’t be pitching balls up to super-hitting team like the Jays.
- Carlos Gomez needs some more batting practice or something.
- Luis Ayala and Philip Humber don’t look good, yet Craig Breslow and Jesse Crain (who look fine to this point) have been under-used.
- I’m still not sure whether Delmon Young will ever make it.
- Our starting pitchers will improve over time.
If the Twins can pull out a series draw against Toronto tonight (with Roy Halliday on the mound for them), that would be an achievement, and surely help their confidence. Even out of the mere four games they’ve won so far this season though, only one has been an impressive blow-out, the other three have been won by a mere whisker. In any sport, a team needs to be in command and show confidence, and right now, Minnesota is looking a little meek.