Wednesday, June 27, 2007

This bullpen is fantastic

I don't really know that this needs to be said, but I love the Twins bullpen. Sure, sometimes they'll screw up and Juan Rincon will have a stretch like he had recently, but then they do something like they did tonight, and I'm right back in.

5 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 W

That's beautiful. And excellent managing of the bullpen as well. They used Reyes for one out, then went with the best guys. Neshek pitched 1.2 innings of good work (even though he did allow a sac fly), Joe Nathan was then brought in for 2 shutout innings, and then Juan Rincon pitched a scoreless inning. Great management of the pen, great pitching by the pen, and a nice win.

And a round of applause for Scott Baker. In my last post way back when, I wondered if it could be Baker's last chance. Well, he has come back and had 2 straight solid starts, including a really good win on Tuesday. 7+ innings, 4 H, 1 ER, 9 K. I'll take that.

Also, another brilliant managing move bringing in Jeff Cirillo in the 12th to pinch hit. This isn't even hindsight bias, as I thought it was an excellent move at the time. Cirillo is a very solid hitter against lefties, and it just made perfect sense to bring him in there. Sometimes managers don't do what seems to make perfect sense, but the Twins did here and it worked out, with Cirillo delivering the game-winning single.

Twins now stand at 39-36, 5.5 games back of the Indians and Tigers... but for some reason, I just have a really good feeling about these guys.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Comeback Wins are the Best

After getting shut down for 8 innings, the Twins came through in the 9th on Thursday, getting Johan Santana off the hook for another home loss.

Johan pitched very well, allowing 2 runs and striking out 9 in 7 innings, but the Twins just could not get to Tim Hudson or Rafael Soriano, who combined for shutout innings. But against old nemesis Bob Wickman in the 9th, the floodgates opened.

Castillo singled, and following a Mauer groundout, he scored on a triple by Michael Cuddyer. After a grounder by Morneau that was misplayed by the first baseman, there were runners on 1st and 3rd for Hunter. His AB wasn't pretty, but ultimately a weak grounder that eventually led to an error on 3B Yunel Escobar tied the game, and then the Twins won on a base hit to left by Mike Redmond.

So it doesn't matter how you do it... it doesn't matter that the Braves pitching staff dominated this game for 8 innings, all that matters is that the Twins have now won 4 straight and remain just 5.5 back of the Indians, and only 4 back of the Tigers.

On Friday Scott Baker gets the call against the Brewers, and you have to think this might be one of Baker's final chances. He has a great track record, but the Twins have a lot of other good pitching prospects and Baker is struggling once again. He's had a couple straight mediocre starts, and I'm not sure how much more the Twins will give him.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kevin Slowey picks up first Major League Win

It wasn't quite an awe-inspiring performance, but it's good to see Kevin Slowey get his first Major League win in his second MLB start. Slowey only went 5 innings, giving up 10 hits, 5 runs, and 4 ER, but thanks to good work from the offense and from the bullpen it was good enough for the win.

The bullpen pitched 4 hitless and scoreless innings to preserve the lead, showing their strength. Look at the ERAs of the guys that pitched:

Matt Guerrier: 1.72 (in 36.2 IP)
Carmen Cali: 0.00 (in 4.2 IP)
Pat Neshek: 1.26 (in 28.2 IP)
Joe Nathan: 2.05 (in 26.1 IP)

If I was doing any online sports betting, I would say this is the best bullpen in the MLB once again.

Also, it becomes more and more clear (at least to me) that Pat Neshek is the best middle reliever in the MLB. In the 28.2 IP he has struck out 34 batters, walked only 10, and allowed only 12 hits. That puts his WHIP at 0.77, his OBA at .217, and SLG against at only .200. Those are unbelievable numbers.

Offensively, the Twins got their power from Michael Cuddyer (3/4, 1 HR, 3 RBI), and a couple of other unlikely sources, as both Nick Punto and Jason Bartlett hit their first homers of the year.

All in all, a nice day and a nice job to come from behind to salvage one game of the 3-game set, as we head into another round of interleague play. 3 games at home against a mediocre Washington Nationals team sounds like a recipe for success.