Friday, June 30, 2006

Twins look to continue their winning ways against the Brewers

Friday: Brad Radke (6-7, 5.40 ERA) vs. Carlos Villanueva (0-0, 2.65 ERA)
Saturday: Carlos Silva (4-8, 6.43 ERA) vs. Chris Capuano (9-4, 3.10 ERA)
Sunday: Francisco Liriano (8-1, 2.21 ERA) vs. Zachary Jackson (1-0, 4.70 ERA)

On paper, it looks like the Twins should be favored on Friday and Sunday, with the Brewers have the pitching matchup edge on Saturday for a couple reasons: Capuano has been better than Silva, and he's left-handed. And in case you haven't noticed, the Twins have a lot of lefty bats, although they have hit well against the lefties. More on the pitching matchup Friday.

One of those lefties is 1B Justin Morneau, who's been a man-beast of late - now 9th in the AL with 19 HR and 2nd in the AL with 64 RBI. Oh yeah, and he's raised his batting average a ton while getting a hit in 18 of his last 19 games.

As for the team as a whole, they've won 17 of 19, but that hasn't meant a whole lot in the standings, as they're still 11 back of Detroit. However, Freddy Sanchez helped today with a walkoff HR for Pittsburgh against the Sox, moving them to 8.5 behind Chicago for the wilcard lead.

So this weekend, root for the Twins, root for the Cubs (against the Sox), and root for the Pirates (against Detroit). With some breaks over the weekend, the Twins are right back in the thick of this race!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Once again, business as usual

A dominating effort from Johan Santana? Check.
A multi-hit game for Joe Mauer? Check.
Just Rincon being a good teammate and sacrificing his ERA so Joe Nathan could have a chance at a save? Check.
Joe Nathan striking out the side for the save? Check.
Justin Morneau upping the slugging percentage? Check.

As I said, business as usual for the Twins in their 6-3 win.

Johan's now 9-4 with a 2.59 ERA, and he now has struck out 124 batters in 118.1 innings with only 20 BB.

Of course, despite winning 17 of their last 19 games, the Twins have gaied only 1/2 a game on the Tigers in the Central. For the record, here's how things stand in the central:

Detroit Tigers: 54-25 (9-1 in last 10), -
Chicago White Sox: 51-26 (9-1 in last 10), 2 GB
Minnesota Twins: 42-35 (9-1 in last 10), 11 GB
Cleveland Indians: 35-42 (4-6 in last 10), 18 GB
Kansas City Royals: 25-51 (7-3 in last 10), 27.5 GB

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Those kids can play a little bit, no?

For the record:

Joe Mauer - 23 years old
Francisco Liriano - 22 years old

As Timbuk 3 would say, the future's so bright I gotta wear shades.

Liriano, again, was brilliant. He only threw 86 pitches (and much props to Gardy for not putting him in for another inning in a 7-run game - save all the innings you can), but he went 7 innings, striking out, and giving up only 2 solo HR (5 hits total). As with his last start, an outing like this actually raised his ERA all the way up to 2.21. By the way, if my calculations are correct, he has a very good chance by after his next start to have enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, where he would have a huge lead as of today.

As for the Joe Mauer, who's becoming kind of a big deal, was 5/5 on the day, or 9/10 the last 2 games in case you haven't been paying attention. His batting average is all the way up to .389, leading at least one guy to start to ask, 'What if?' Meanwhile, he's moved up to 3rd place on the AL All-Star voting for Catchers, behind only Jason Varitek and Ivan Rodriguez. It's worth mentioning that Joe has been better in every facet of the game than these two players. In other words, VOTE FOR JOE MAUER.

By the way, very nice article on Yahoo! about Joe Mauer, which you should read if you have a chance.

The Twins go for another sweep on Wednesday as they send Johan Cytana to the mound to take on Odalis Perez in the battle of the lefties. Johan currently sits at 8-4 with a 2.75 ERA, while Odalis is 4-2 with a 6.33 ERA. Twins would seem to have the advantage on paper, but we all know these games aren't played on paper but by the little men in our TV sets. Hopefully they little men in Twins uniforms continue their torrid pace!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

That Joe Mauer Guy can hit the ball pretty well

Ok, so Mauer was probably pretty upset with himself after having the average drop all the way under .370 in the past couple days. I'd say going 4/5 with a double, triple, and 5 RBI is a pretty good way to rectify that. With Mauer's career night, he's bumped the average back up to .377, batting .370 against lefties and .380 against righties. Not bad for a 22 year-old catcher.

Of course, he had some help, namely from Carlos Silva, who had another superb outing, tossing 8 innings and giving up 2 runs for his 3rd straight Quality Start. Of course, that only drops the ERA to 6.43, but we'll take what we can get at this point. He only struck out 3, but getting back more to normal for him, he did not walk anyone. His record now stands at 4-8.

Of course, with all these wins over NL teams, not only by the Twins but by other AL Central foes, why can't the Twins be in the National League?? This is coming off another article I read, which said that according to some simulations from the Boston Red Sox, the AL on average is 10 games better than the NL, which is obviously an enormous difference.

Then again, maybe it's not being in the AL that's bad so much as it is being in the AL Central right now. After yet another Detroit win yesterday, the Twins are still 11 back of the Tigers and 9 back of the White Sox. Those two teams, coincendentally, own the best records in baseball.

Tossing in the 2nd game of this series will be a couple of really solid pitchers - Derek Lowe for the visiting Dodgers (6-3, 2.90) and The Iceman Francisco Liriano for the Twins (7-1, 2.17 ERA)

The Twins will look to extend their winning streak to 6 games. They're also 15-2 in their last 17 games, so they have that going for them, which is nice. Hopefully the good fortune can continue.

EDIT: After a little bit of feedback, I've decided to go back to the blue background, AKA the original look of the blog. Good idea or no?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hey, even 3 wins against the Cubs count as 3 wins

Ok, so the Twins may seem to be running in place with the way that the Sox and Tigers keep on winning (although the White Sox did finally lose on Sunday), I'll keep repeating this, the Twins just need to keep playing like they are and eventually Detroit and Chicago will slow down. I think. Let's look at each club's record over the last 10:

Detroit: 9-1
Chicago: 9-1
Minnesota: 9-1

Can you say best division in baseball? I think so.

But let's focus on more of the positive, such as the Twins getting another sweep, this one at the expense of the Cubbies, as they finished them off with a 8-1 victory on Sunday, to move to 4 games over .500 for the first time all year. Brad Radke and the pitching staff continue to do well, as the Twins sport a 2.7 ERA over the past 16 games.

Radke was especially effective pitching out of jams on Sunday, as he spread 7 hits and a walk in his 7 shutout innings, allowing him to grab his 6th win of the year.

Offensively, the Twins were able to capitalize on some bad Cubs defense - 3 errors and another ball that squeaked by Nevin and Walker on what could have been ruled an error - on their way to some early runs. Late in the game, they showed some power, as both Torii Hunter and Luis Rodriguez hit homeruns. Of course, every Torii Hunter homerun and every Twins win only makes the decision about what to do with Torii Hunter even harder. For more in depth looks at that, check out SBG or Twinkie Town, as they have the low down.

Anyway, the Twins now have a 3-game set with the Dodgers only the second time they've faced them since 1965. On the mound in Game 1 will be Carlos Silva (3-6, 6.87 ERA) against highly touted rookie Chad Billingsley (0-0, 3.48 ERA).

And the best news of all is that if the Twins win, they will definitely gain some ground on the White Sox. After all, the Sox have the day off.

EDIT: As anyone who's read the site before would know, I changed the background from blue to white to make it a little more user-friendly. The blue was nice because it's a Twins color, but I like the white a lot more because it's easier on the eyes. Thoughts?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

I'll have The Sabean Special with that

You can push that Sabean Special Count up to 4 after Saturday night's Twins win over the Cubs.

In the 3-0 shutout victory for Minnesota, Boof started things off right, with 6 1/3 scoreless innings for the Twins. As the Boof Blog mentions, Boof only struck out 1 Cubs hitter in those 6 1/3, but he did get a good number of ground ball outs. To complete The Sabean Special, Joe Nathan worked a scoreless ninth for his 12th save of the year, and 100th of his career.

I saw a stat on ESPN, the Twins are 13-2 in their last 15 games with an ERA of a miniscule 2.43. Of course, much of that is becuase of the Santana/Liriano duo, which is 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA this month. That right there is the best duo in baseball.

On the other side of the ball, the young guys continue to produce. For a change, Monreau did not leave the ballpark, but the others picked up the slack against Mark Prior. Jason Kubel, Terry Tiffee, and Jason Bartlett all had RBI in the win. Joe Mauer also had a hit, though his league-leading average did drop a little bit down to .368. I'll still take it.

On Sunday, Twins go for the sweep at home as they send Brad Radke out to the mound to take on Sean Marshall. Hopefully they can win and get a little bit of help, which hasn't been quick coming, as Detroit and Chicago keep on winning, both in extra innings. As of Saturday, the Twins still stand 11 game back of the Tigers and 10.5 back of the Sox. But as usual, they just need to worry about themselves and keep winning, and things will fall into place.

Hopefully that can continue for another sweep.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Just another day at the office

Johan Santana throws 8 innings and gives up only 1 ER. Ho hum. Justin Morneau, the Good Doctor, goes yard again and has 3 RBI. Ho hum. Twins win 7-2. Just another day at the office for the team that's won 10 of 11.

Let's start with Johan, who improved to 8-4 and lowered his AL leading ERA down to 2.75. He also struck out 6 batters, which raises his AL leading total there to 115. He lowered that AL leading WHIP down to 0.98. And with 8 wins, he's 2 behind "The Gambler" Kenny Rogers, or else he'd have the pitching Triple Crown right now. Cy Young? I think so.

But let's not forget Morneau, who's 2-run HR ended up being the game-winning hit, and Chicago never tied for took the lead for the rest of the ballgame. It was his 19th of the year, which puts him in the top 10 in the AL. He's now at 61 RBI, which puts him at a cool 7th in the MLB, and 2nd in the AL.

1. Albert Pujols - SL - 66
1. Ryan Howard - PHI - 66
3. Lance Berkman - HOU - 65
4. Andruw Jones - ATL - 64
4. David Ortiz - BOS - 64
6. David Wright - NYM - 63
7. Justin Morneau - MIN - 61
8. Jim Thome - CHW - 59
9. Carlos Lee - MIL - 58
9. Paul Konerko - CHIW - 58

That's not bad company right there.

Saturday's game features Boof going against the mich-maligned Mark Prior, who was less than impressive in his last start. Boof is currently 1-1 with a 5.81 ERA.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Francisco Liriano outpitches one of the top 3 pitchers of all-time

Ok, so it was Clemens first game back from his "retirement." But how many times am I going to get the chance to write that headline?

Anyway, it's all true. In the 4-2 Twins win, Liriano dazzled for 8 innings, giving up only a 2-run HR to Jason Lane in the 8th. Meanwhile, 'The Rocket' was only about to go 5 innings (but threw 100 pitches), and gave up 2 runs in the 3rd, as he got saddled for the loss. Joe Nathan came on in the 9th to finish the game for The Sabean Special.

You know, if it wasn't evident before, it is now: Liriano really needs a nickname. And I think I've finally got it. Considering the focus on this game - which was pretty darn high for a regular season game in the middle of the year - with Clemens return, Liriano's first game on national TV, etc. and the fact that Liriano absolutely did not disappoint, I'm calling him "The Iceman." That's with all due respect to George Gervin.

There you have it - Francisco Liriano = The Iceman.

Look at the confidence he already brings the team. As Batgirl wrote, despite the circumstances, was there any doubt in Twins fans minds who was going to win this game? Not for me. Maybe he's already got unreasonable expectations, but I think The Iceman can handle them all. Oh yes, he's that good.

Maybe my favorite stat of the night was the fact that despite pitching 8 innings and giving up 2 runs, Francisco's ERA actually rose to 2.17. I think we can forgive him for that.

Introducing... The Sabean Special

I got to thinking, and in the spirit of this blog, I found that it is only appropriate that we have a simple nickname for a certain situation - When Francisco Liriano or Boof Bonser starts the game and gets the win, and then Joe Nathan comes on to finish the game.

Hence The Sabean Special.

By my count, it's happened three times so far this year:

5/26 - Liriano pitched 5 shutout innings, Joe Nathan finishes it off with a perfect 9th. Twins beat the Mariners 3-1.
6/16 - Liriano pitched 7 innings, giving up 2 runs and striking out 11. Nathan pitches another perfect 9th for the save. Twins beat the Pirates 4-2.
6/22 - Liriano pitches 8 innings, giving up only 2 run on 4 hits, and Nathan pitches a scoreless 9th. Twins beat the Astros 4-2.

So let's start it now:

"The Sabean Special" Count: 3

Thursday, June 22, 2006

All good things must come to an end

Well, the 8-game winning streak came to an end as the bullpen let the team down in a 5-3 loss. Anyway, since I need to get some sleep before the US Soccer game, and there's not too much to say about the game, I'll reiteratiate the thoughts from here:


His ERA is now at 8.87. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A win is a win is a win

It wasn't the prettiest win of the year, but at the end of the day, all that matters is the result, especially when you're trailing 4-1 after 6 innings.

The Twins originally took the lead after a passed ball brought in the go-ahead run. Unfortunately, Joe Nathan blew his first save of the year in the 9th, giving up a solo HR to Preston Wilson, tying the game at 5. In the top of the 10th, however, it was Dr. Morneau hitting his 17th Quadrangle of the year (which has him on pace for some nice numbers) which gave the Twins the 6-5 lead. After that, Joe Nathan wasn't going to blow it twice, as he struck out the side in the 10th, getting him his 5th win of the year, and putting the Twins over .500, and have them looking like a whole new team.

The only negative here is that the Twins can't really catch a break in the standings, as Detroit and Chicago just keep on winning. On Tuesday, the Sox beat St. Louis 20-6 while Detroit beat Milwaukee 10-1. As of now, the Twins have won 8 in a row while the Sox have won 5 in a row and Detroit has won 6 in a row. They stand 11 games behind the Tigers and 9.5 games behind the White Sox.

Regardless, they just have to keep focusing on taking care of themselves, and eventually they can make up some ground. It's a marathon, not a sprint. For now, they just have to focus on Wednesday's game, which features Carlos Silva on the mound vs. Wandy Rodriguez.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Back to .500

First off, sorry for not posting earlier, but as I wrote, I've been real busy. But that's not important right now. What is important is the riding a 7-game winning streak (and a sweep of the Red Sox and Pirates), the Twins are back to .500 at 34-34.

The biggest reason for this turnaround is that the Twins staff has regained its form from last year. The bullpen has been really good, plus the starting pitching is starting to come around - Brad Radke is finding his groove, Carlos Silva showed signs he might be back, Francisco Liriano is in the ROY discussion, and Johan Santana is once again in the Cy Young race. All in all, this now puts the team ERA at 4.62, which is 7th in the AL.

Now, the Twins have exactly been able to make up much ground during this streak, and they sit 11.5 games behind Detroit and 9.5 games behind Chicago, but this is a definite start. The Tigers can't stay this good, I wouldn't think, but there's still a lot that needs to be done. However, if the pitching gets back into form, and the young hitters keep improving, anything can happen.

For now, the Twins start a 3-game set with the Houston Astros, with Brad Radke taking on Roy Oswalt in the opener. The prime jewel of the set will be Thursday, when Francisco Liriano will pitch against Roger Clemens, making his frst MLB start of the year. In the second game of the series, Carlos Silva will take on Wandy Rodriguez.

The Houston Astros record stands at 36-33. I wouldn't mind sending them down to .500.

Friday, June 16, 2006

How do you spell S-W-E-E-P?

Well that's a nice surprise. After another Kubel HR, the first good outing of the year for Carlos Silva, and Joe Nathan getting the Twins out of some late trouble, the Twins earned the sweep over the Boston Red Sox with a 5-3 victory Thursday.

The most encouraging thing about the game, by far, was a sign that maybe Carlos Silva is ready to get back into the form that made him so effective last year. His 6 scoreless innings lowered his ERA from 7.73 to 7.07. Granted, 7.07 still isn't good, but it's a heck of a lot better than 7.73. He gave up 7 hits and struck out 2, but again, true to last year's form, didn't walk anyone.

Grady's been criticized by me and others in the past, so it's only proper to give him credit when credit is due. I love the fact that he brought in Nathan in the 8th when the bases were loaded. Sure, it wasn't a conventional save situation in which Nathan is usually saved for, but regardless of inning, it was the most important part of the game, with the bases loaded, no out, and the 4-5-6 hitters coming up. Bravo to Gardy for bringing Nathan in there, which eventually resulted in Nathan's 8th save.

Also congrats to Jason Kubel, who homered in his 3rd straight game. He's now batting .291 with a .321 OBP and .506 SLG in 79 AB. He could stand to take a couple more walks, but it's great to see a little bit of power from him. Once again, I beg you Gardy, leave him in LF when Stewart comes back!

Anyway, the sweep puts their record at 31-34, 11 games behind the Tigers. They now head to Pittsburgh for a 3-game set.

As an added note, I'll be gone for the weekend, so I apologize to both of my readers when I say that the blog won't be update until Sunday or Monday! Maybe this will bring the Twins more good luck!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

These Grand Slams can be contagious

We had a couple of grand slams from Cuddyer last week, then Jason Kubel hit the walkoff Grand Slam last night, and now it seems Justin Morneau wants to get in on the action. With the score at 4-1 in the 6th, Morneau's Grand Slam broke the game open. And the best part about it, as AG mentions, he hit it to the opposite field, which he seems to be doing a lot more of this year, and that's a big reason by he's on pace for 35 HR and 130 RBI. Just a thing of beauty to see him get ahold of one. As NBA Jam would say, he's on fire!

And another encouraging thing was that Brad Radke is finding his groove. I think most pitchers will take 6 innings and 1 run against that potent Red Sox offense, especially a guy that's been struggling this year. The game lowered his ERA to 5.83, which still isn't good, but he's finally put together a few good outings in a row. If he can get it going after Santana and Liriano, the Twins pitching could be back. Now let's just hope Carlos Silva can give up less than 5 HR in the series finale.

One negative about tonight was Torii Hunter doing what he does best - making a mental mistake at the plate. In the 3rd inning, Matt Clement managed to walk the bases full (with Mauer, Cuddyer, and Morneau). Then Hunter steps up to the plate. Everyone and their mother knows you take a strike in this situation. Instead, Torii goes up, swings on the first pitch, and promply GIDP. As Third Base Line writes on Bat-Girl, the new rule is that with runners on and less than 2 out, we need to pinch-hit for Hunter no matter the innings.

But let's focus on the positive. Like Jason Kubel hitting another HR. Or Jason Bartlett going 2/4 in his first game back. Or the Twins winning the series against Boston. After an 8-1 win, I guess I don't have to look far.

Now hopefully they can get the sweep!

Welcome back, Jason Bartlett!

Welcome back,
Your dreams were your ticket out.

Welcome back,
To that same old place that you laughed about.

Well the names have all changed since you hung around,
But those dreams have remained and they're turned around.

Who'd have thought they'd lead ya (Who'd have thought they'd lead ya)
Here where we need ya (Here where we need ya)

Yeah we tease him a lot cause we've hot him on the spot, welcome back, welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Santana great; Kubel saves the day

First off, I kinda feel like a prophet, because I just wrote about Kubel Monday, and about how he was hitting the ball better and looking more comfortable at the plate. So what does he do Tuesday? Well, nothing but hit a walkoff GS in the bottom of the 12th inning, his 3rd HR of the year, after working the count to 3-2. Not too bad.

Of course, this was made possible by Julian Tavarez, my new favorite opposing pitcher. He managed to bean Mike Cuddyer, serve a meatball to Morneau for a ground-rule double, intentionally walk Hunter, and then give up the 3-2 GS to Kubel. So thanks Julian!

In the spirit of the blog, I have to mention that Joe Nathan pitched another shutout inning. It wasn't his prettiest outing of the year, as he gave up a hit and a BB in his one inning of work, but hey, he extended the game, lowering his ERA to 1.87. His fellow reliever, Juan Rincon pitched 2 great innings to lower his ERA to 1.60.

One good thing is that unlike last time, the Twins actually used their best relievers before they brought the junk (AKA Jesse Crain) into the game. Of course, Crain promptly broke the tie in the 12th, but he recovered for his first win of the year. Congrats Jesse! (note sarcasm)

As for great performances, I have to tip my cap to both starting pitchers. It was really a great battle between two great pitchers. But let's focus on Johan. 8 innings, 13 strikeouts, and only mistake (the HR to Varitek). Johan finally got the ERA under 3 now at 2.99 for the year, which puts him at #4 in the AL. This coming on the heels of Johan's last two years, which, according to Stick and Ball Guy's analysis which were the 5th best and best seasons ever in Twins pitching history.

And you can add on maybe the best Twins news of the day - Bartlett up, Batista out. It's about time the Twins got Bartlett up to the Majors and got Batista out. Quite frankly, Batista was a pretty bad signing from the get-go. Maybe the Twins will actually commit fully to the youth movement and get Kubel and Bartlett starts all year, which will only help for the future. I can hope.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Jason Kubel

If there's an upside to Shannon Stewart being injured (I mean, other than getting his defense out of LF), it's that Jason Kubel is finally getting a chance to play everyday out there, and his bat is starting to come around.

Kubel, if you'll remember, was pretty much God in AAA a couple years ago, but then blew out his knee and missed all of last year. So ABs are obviously important at this point, and when he wasn't getting consistent ABs earlier this year, he predictably was not hitting all that well. However, now that he's playing everyday, he's picking it up. Case in point:

6/10: 3/5, 1 2B
6/9: 2/4
6/8: 1/5
6/7: 1/6
6/6: 3/5, 1 HR

Not great numbers, but not too bad for a guy just getting his first consistent playing time in the MLB. As an example of the little work he's gotten, his batting average raises 70 points a week.

But beyond the numbers, as Seth points out, he just looks more comfortable at the plate. He's having better AB, being more patient, and it's starting to show up in the numbers.

As of now, his line isn't terribly impressive at this point - .306 OBP/.397 SLG, but things are starting to come around. In his last 7 games he's batting .400 and slugging .560. If he sticks around all year, I honestly think he has a decent chance to hit .300. He's just a good overall hitter.

So why do I have the sinking feeling that once Stewart gets off the DL they'll start him and either relegate Kubel to the bench or to AAA? Becuase these are the Twins, and Ron Gardenhire still manages the club. But watching Kubel mature over the past few weeks gives me more confidence for the future - With Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, and Cuddyer all in the lineup and only one of them arguably in their prime (Cuddyer), the Twins offense has a chance to be real solid over the next few years. Hopefully they just get the time to develop.

Also, special congrats to Aaron Gleeman, who's approaching (or may have passed by the time you read this) the 2,000,000 visitor mark. In my opinion, Aaron's the premier Twins blogger out in the blogosphere - heck, maybe the premier Twins writer anywhere. So anyway, if you happen to read this Aaron, congratulations, and keep up the fantastic and entertaining work.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Liriano pitches 7 strong; Twins get the shutout

I asked yesterday if Johan Santana or Francisco Liriano could just start every game for the Twins, and while that's obviously not feasible, this game showed my thinking.

Francisco Liriano threw 7 shutout innings on Sunday against the Orioles, surrendering just 1 hit and only 2 BB. He also struck out 6 in the 7 innings of work. With the win, his record improves to 5-1, and the ERA lowers to a miniscule 2.10. I've said it before but I'll say it again - as of now, if Liriano had the innings to qualify, he'd lead the AL in ERA. I love this guy.

The offense wasn't great, but it was good enough to get the win behind Liriano. Justin Morneau hit another HR, his 14th of the year. That was a 2-run shot that was effectively the game-winning runs. Also scoring on that play was Joe Mauer, who went 1/4. (for more on Joe Mauer, Aaron Gleeman looks at whether Joe can hit .400).

Another thing for the offense, it appears that Ron Gardenhire was listening when I said yesterday that it might be time for Cuddyer to bat cleanup. Hunter was moved to 6th and Cuddyer up to 4th, but that move was fruitless today, as Cuddyer went 0/4.

Also notable as far as this site is concerned, Joe Nathan got the call in the 9th (in what else, a non-save situation). He pitched 1 scoreless inning, lowering the ERA down to 1.96, which is really good.

By the way, another reminder for you to vote in the All-Star game. Mauer's not even in the top 5 for catchers in the AL!

Twins get the day off on Monday, followed by Boston coming to town for a 3-game set. In the first game, it will be a battle of the aces as Johan Santana (6-4, 3.16 ERA) takes on Curt Schilling (9-2, 3.81 ERA).

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Can Johan Santana or Francisco Liriano start every game?

Can't blame the Twins offense. Behind a 7th inning Michael Cuddyer Grand Slam, 3 hits each from Jason Kubel and Justin Morneau, along with Joe Mauer reaching base 4 out of 5 times, the Twins managed to put up 7 runs tonight. I'll take that any day of the week.

Unfortunately, behind the pitching of Carlos Silva and Kyle Lohse, they gave up 9 runs, resulting in a 9-7 loss to the Orioles.

In the first inning, Carlos Silva gave up 3 runs while recording 1 out (on a sac bunt). In the 7th, Kyle Lohse gave up 3 runs before getting any outs. Overall, Silva gave up 5 ER on 10 hits and a BB in 6 innings, while Kyle Lohse gave up 4 runs in 2.2 innings. So much for showcasing him for a trade. At this point, Kyle Lohse stinks.

Another factor in the loss was the so-called "face of the franchise", Torii Hunter. In front of Hunter in the lineup were Mauer and Kubel, who combined to reach base 7 times in 10 combined AB. Behind them, in the cleanup spot, Torii Hunter went 0/3 with 2 BB, and 8 LOB. To make things worse, he's not hitting a paltry .192 in May, with a SLG of .269. He's been bad with RISP and even worse with RISP and 2 out. Maybe it's time to try Cuddyer in the cleanup spot.

The 3rd and final game of the series features Francisco Liriano (4-1, 2.44 ERA) facing Erik Bedard (5-5, 5.84 ERA). Let's hope the youngsters can keep delivering and maybe get the Twins to .500 by the AS break, and after that anything can happen. But maybe that's just hopeful thinking.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Twins win in 12; Nathan finally gets the win

It took a late comeback and some dramatics in extra innings, but the Twins prevailed on Friday night with a 7-5 victory over the Orioles in 12 innings.

Before we go any further, we'd be remiss (becuase of the blog name) if we didn't mention the fact that Joe Nathan got the win. Nathan pitched 2 innings, giving up 1 hit and 1 walk while striking out 3. It was his 4th win of the year (4-0), and the 2 shutout innings lowers his ERA to 2.05, which is pretty good..

But he wouldn't gave picked up the victory without the walkoff HR from Justin Morneau, his 2nd of the night, and 13th of the year. With Nick Punto on 1st and 2 out in the 12th, Justin Morneau blasted the 2-0 pitch from Chen over the high wall in RF to end the ballgame. The 5 RBI for Morneau increased his team-leading RBI total to 43.

In what's becoming a nightly theme, Joe Mauer was very good at the plate, going 3/5 with a BB, and he scored a run. With the average sitting at .384 and the OPS up at .983, I think it's safe to call Joe Mauer the best C in the MLB.

The bullpen combined to pitch 6.1 scoreless innings, with Jesse Crain pitching 1.1 innings (to lower the ERA to 6.04!), Denys Reyes pitched 1.1 innings, and Juan Rincon pitched 1.2 scoreless innings (which lowered the ERA to 1.76).

With a loss from the Tigers, the Twins now sit 10.5 games out of place, but they can't look at that. Just have to keep plugging away, taking one game at a time, and worry about themselves. It sounds cliche, but when you're that far out, you just have to keep winning series. The Twins have a chance to take the series on Saturday with Carlos Silva taking the mound taking the mound against Daniel Cabrera (who always seems to have the Twins' number. On Sunday we will once again get to see Francisco Liriano go to work, which is always a pleasure.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Twins win!!

So the Twins were at least able to salvage one game here - a 7-3 victory over the Mariners on Thursday. Johan Cytana improves the record to 6-4, even if he was only able to go 5 innings. He only gave up one run in thos 5 innings, lowering the ERA to 3.16, which will further move him up in the AL ERA race, where he was sitting in 8th just 5 days ago.

1. Jose Contreras - 2.54
2. Mike Mussina - 2.67
3. Roy Halladay - 2.89
4. John Lackey - 3.06
5. Johan Santana - 3.16

And of course, Francisco Liriano's 2.44 ERA would lead the league if he the innings to qualify.

Joe Mauer continued his assault of the ball, going 3/4 with a couple of doubles, raising the average to .379, which he's built up a nice lead in as far as the AL (and MLB goes). At this point, I'm inclined to just call him Chairman Mauer like Bat-Girl and now TwinsGeek. Oh yeah, and he's only 23 years old.

Joe Nathan finally got some action in there... only it was a 7-2 game. But hey, at least he wasn't used in a tie game in extra innings, right!? Nathan did give up a run, raising the ERA to 2.25, but he always seems to struggle a little when nothing's really at stake. Which is ok with me as long as he's good when the game's on the line, and he usually is.

Juan Castro went 2/3 as well, which may not have been a good thing, because it just gives the Twins more excuses not to call up Bartlett. Make that 71 days on the Bartlett Watch.

Twins head home now to take on Baltimore for a 3-game stand, with Brad Radke starting against Rodrigo Lopez. Let's just say that any type of decent outing will help Radke's ERA, which now sits at 6.42. As always, check out Seth Speaks for good Minor League info.

Let's go Twins!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Once again, Boof (and the Twins) burned by the long ball

The Twins finally found their offense. Unfortunately, it came the same time they lost their pitching. The offense put 9 runs, but the pitching gave up 10, 5 of them from rookie Boof Bonser, who gave up 3 homeruns in his 5 innings of work, as the Twins lost 10-9 in 11 innings.

This was the second straight game Boof gave up 3 homeruns, as he also completed the feat against Oakland last week. Bonser gave up a leadoff homer to Ichiro in the 1sty, a 2-run HR to Sexson in the first, and then a 2-run HR to Yuniesky Betancourt in the 2nd, which was the source of all 5 ER.

Bonser gave up 7 hits total, while striking out 3 and walking 3. This raised his ERA to 5.48. With the late grand slam from Cuddyer, he got a no-decision out of it. For a more complete summary, you can always check out the Boof Blog.

But there were plenty of bright spots. Joe Mauer continued his torrent pace with a 2/4 day, raising his average to .371. How would this stack up against all-time great seasons by Twins hitters? Find out for yourself here.

Lew Ford was 4/6 from the plate. Torii Hunter was 3/5. Mike Cuddyer was 2/5 including a game-tying Grand Slam in the 8th. Mike Redmond had 3 hits. Unfortunately, this was all wasted when Carl Everett hit his solo jack in the 11th off Jesse Crain, with Joe Nathan still in the bullpen. As Aaron Gleeman says, we've seen this before. I thought the point of having a great relief pitcher like Joe Nathan was to use him? I guess not. Twins Without Spin saw this coming before it even happened.

Johan on the mound tomorrow night looking to salvage a game here. I wonder if Juan Castro will be the player to watch again?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Francisco Liriano is human after all

Technically, it was a quality start. 6 innings, 3 ER. That's not a bad outing by any means. The significant part is that that was his worst start of the year. Not too shabby.

In his rematch with Felix Hernandez, Felix and the Mariners pulled out a 4-2 victory on Tuesday. As mentioned, Liriano pitched 6 innings and gave up 3 runs, striking out 3 and walking 2. But hey, if that's your worst start to date, that's not too shabby.

Unfortunately, Twins hitters not named Joe Mauer or Jason Kubel didn't help him out much. Mauer was 4/4, while Kubel was 3/5. As Nick mentions, Mauer now leads the Majors with his .368 batting average. (and as Bat-Girl says, vote for Joe, the best catcher in the AL. Besides, we don't want something like this do we?).

Maybe with games like this, Gardenhire will actually leave Kubel in the lineup everyday. With the Twins not really gaining any ground, there's no sense in starting Lew Ford or Shannon Stewart over Kubel, unless you want to showcase Stewart for a trade.

Anyway, as you may know, the first part of the draft took place Tuesday, with the Twins taking high schooler Chris Parmalee. For more in depth draft coverage, go here or here for the good stuff. For a look at the Farm System, Seth posted his May Minor League report, which is full of lots and lots of great info.

Boof on the mound tomorrow to face Jamie Moyer on the M's. I don't suppose a couple of runs is too much to ask for, is it?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

For anyone wondering about Boof Bonser's name!

I know this is probably common knowledge among Twins fans, but for those non-Twins fans wondering about it, His real first name is Boof. After the 2001 season, he legally had his name changed from John Paul to Boof, a nickname that he had since he was a child.

And there you have it, the real truth about Boof Bonser's name. The more you know, the better!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Twins need Liriano to pick them up; rematch of the Phenoms

An early HR from Joe Mauer (the top catcher in the AL) aside, the Twins offense was stagnant again, and Carlos Silva struggled early, leading to a 5-1 Twins loss, as they drop 3 of 4 to Oakland.

After an off day on Monday, they'll head out to Seattle, where Francisco Liriano will take the mound for the Twins trying to get them back into the winning column, which has been no easy task for the Twins this year on the road.

Liriano's pitching opponent will be "King" Felix Hernandez, which will be a rematch of their 5/26 duel in Minnesota, which the Twins won 3-1. In that game, Liriano pitched 5 scoreless innings (striking out 6), while Hernandez gave up 3 runs in 7 innings.

In Game 2 of the series, we'll likely see a rematch of the 5/27 meeting between these clubs, when Boof Bonser and the Twins beat Jamie Moyer and the Mariners 9-5.

As good as Liriano has been, it's not going to matter how well he pitches if the Twins average 1 run per game, which they did in the Oakland series. Hopefully the Missing Twins will return.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Francisco Liriano's ERA

It dawned on me the other day that if Francisco Liriano had just pitched 16.2 more innings so far this year with the same ERA, he would be the ERA leader in the American League. I believe the rule is that to qualify, you need at least 1 IP for each team game. Well, the Twins have played 55 games as of now and Liriano has thrown 38.1 innings, with a 2.11 ERA.

And the best part is, he's a young and unpolished rookie, who theoretically will only get better. Here's the AL ERA leaders so far (of pitchers that qualify)

1. Mike Mussina - 2.42
2. Jose Contreras - 2.53
3. Barry Zito - 2.87
4. Roy Halladay - 2.88
5. Mark Buehrle - 2.89
6. Justin Verlander - 3.13
7. Scott Kazmir - 3.15
8. Johan Santana - 3.24
9. John Lackey - 3.36
10. Nate Robertson - 3.42

As far as young (prospective) Twins players go, it's about time the Twins bring up Jason Barlett and insert him at SS. Third Base Line has a "Free Jason Bartlett" Countdown (66 days and counting), while Aaron Gleeman points out a little Gardenhire hypocrisy:

Castro dropped a routine pop up the other night and I couldn't help but think back to when Bartlett did the same thing in a spring training game. Gardenhire criticized him to anyone who would listen, turning the mistake into an indictment of Bartlett's leadership ability, and then Ryan quickly shipped him back to Rochester and handed Castro the job for a second straight season. Not only didn't Castro receive a fraction of that response, no one even acknowledges that he's been sloppy defensively all year.

Meanwhile, Barlett continues to bat over .300 in AAA, while Castro plugs away in the low .200s with no power and no patience at the plate. But he brings plenty of veteran leadership! (note the sarcasm)

On a final note, will someone inform Tony Batista that he can move from side to side when he's playing defense? Anyone?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Twins win 2-1; Joe Nathan with his 7th save

After 7 innings of play, it looked like a repeat of Thursday night for the Twins. Solid pitching, no offense, and a Frank Thomas 2nd inning home run would be the deciding run. With one swing, Justin Morneau changed that, making it 2-1, which is how it ended.

Johan Cytana pitched 8 strong innings, giving up only 2 hits (including the solo HR to Thomas), and then Twins super-closer Joe Nathan pithced a perfect 9th for his 7th save.

Nathan started out the inning with a backwards K to pinch-hitter Dan Johnson, who didn't even swing in the AB. Then Mark Kotsay and Nick Swisher went down innocently, and the game was over. For the Twins, it moved them to 25-29 on the year. For Nathan, it was his 7th save, and lowered his ERA to 1.89.

AL Save Leaders
1. Jonathan Papelbon - 20
2. Todd Jones - 16
3. Bobby Jenks - 14
3. Chris Ray - 14
5. Fransisco Rodriguez - 13
6. BJ Ryan - 12
7. Mariano Rivera - 11
8. Tyler Walker - 9
8. Akinori Otsuka - 9
10. Bob Wickman - 8
10. Huston Street - 8
12. Joe Nathan - 7
12. Ambrioux Burgos - 7
12. JJ Putz - 7

Let's go Twins, keep getting Nathan the save opportunities!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Boof a victim of the long ball against the A's

All in all, about what you'd expect from a rookie making his 3rd start. Boof had good stuff, giving up only 5 hits in 7 innings while striking out 5. However, he left his fastball up a few times, as 3 of those 5 hits resulted in homeruns, leaving Boof with 4 ER in the 4-0 loss for the Twins.

Boof was cruising along in the 2nd inning when he left a 1-2 fastball up a little bit, and the "Big Hurt" Frank Thomas blasted it out into the LF seats. As it turned out, that was all the run support that Barry Zito needed, as he pithched 7 scoreless innings. Huston Street got the save for the A's.

The loss for Boof evens his record at 1-1, and raises his ERA to 4.50. His next start should be Wednesday, June 7th at Safeco Field vs. the Mariners.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

How are they doing so far?

We saw how effective Liriano and Nathan were Wednesday night against the Angels, but now let's take a look at how Liriano, Nathan, and Bonser are doing so far this year.

Joe Nathan - The always reliable closer has been fantastic so far this year, even if he hasn't gotten all that many chances to show it. In 18 innings of work, he's given up only 4 runs, good for a 2.00 ERA. But that doesn't do justice to how good he's been. He has racked up 26 strikeouts this year with only 2 BB. His WHIP sits at 0.67 right now, and teams are batting only .191 with a .262 SLG against him. Not too shabby. In spite of all this, he's only got 6 saves, but that's the fault of the starting pitching, which has been pretty awful. Hopefully that will change with the youth movement in the rotation (AKA the next 2 guys).

Francisco Liriano - Liriano started the year in the bullpen, but he was moved to the rotation after Carlos Silva could not get his sinker down. But wherever he's pitched from this year, Liriano has been special, and he's only 22. In 15 appearances (3 starts), he sports a sparkling 2.11 ERA to go with a 1.20 WHIP and .241 BAA. Despite some control problems, he's still got a nearly 4:1 K:BB ratio, thanks to his 47 strikeouts in 38.1 innings. Another amazing stat - in his 3 starts, he's pitched 16 innings, and he's given up 7 hits and 1 run in those 16 innings. I'll take that anyday.

Boof Bonser - Boof Bonser was the most highly regarded prospect that the Twins got in the deal, but he's been overshadowed by Liriano. Nonetheless, he still projects to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter, and he has shown that through 2 starts. In the 2 starts, he's got 1 win, and has pitched 11 innings with a 4.09 ERA. He has given up 13 hits and walked 4 in those 11 innings. However, the most encouraging sign would be that he has shown the ability to get out of tough spots, which he has to do time and time again, in part because he has been able to strike guys out. He already has 13 strikeouts in his 11 innings. In 799 career minor league innings, Bonser had struck people out at a rate of 9.38 per 9 innings. Very encouraging.

Liriano with a gem against the Angels

Fortunately, I'm able to get this blog started off on a good note with the way the game went Wednesday night, a 7-1 Twins victory.

Francisco Liriano was masterful in his 6 innings of work. A little wild at times, but as a young guy with his stuff, predictably so. Liriano was so good he was working on a no-hitter after 5 innings (Orlando Cabrera had a single in the 6th). However, that was his only hit given up on the night, as he pitched 6 innings, giving up 0 runs, while walking 4 and striking out 4.

Since this is only Liriano's 3rd start of the year, he's still on a bit of a pitch count, although he did throw 104 pitches in 6 innings, which was because he was a little wild. However, an encouraging sign for the Twins is that of 14 outs he got that weren't strikeouts, 12 of them were groundouts and only 2 were flyouts. Needless to say, that's a nice ratio.

The 6 shutout innings brought Liriano's ERA down to 2.11 for the year (more on that in the next post).

In the 9th inning, we had another familiar face as Joe Nathan came in to pitch despite it not being a save situation. However, Nathan was still very sharp, striking out the side on 12 pitches. The shutout inning lowered Nathan's ERA to 2.00.

The victory for Liriano gives him a 4-0 record on the year.

(Photo by Francis Specker/AP)


I suppose it's only right to start this off with an introduction.

I am twins15, and as you can probably tell, a lifelong Minnesota Twins fan. I follow basketball, baseball, and football religiously, which you probably already know if you happen to read my other blog, aptly named Complete Sports.

Going on, ever since the trade of A.J. Pierzynski, I've taken special notice of the 3 players the Twins aquired in the deal - Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, and Boof Bonser, who are all currently playing in the Majors for the Minnesota Twins. A.J. Pierzynski, meanwhile, played only one year in San Fransisco before going to Chicago, where he won a World Series.

On my other blog, I wrote about this deal, especially about Francisco Liriano, time and time and time again, so I figured it was the right time to start a blog following these three guys. So anyway, hope you enjoy, or if you're a Giants fan, my email is listed in my profile, so you can send your hate mail there!