Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Box Score Lies!

I had a lovely Easter here in Pasadena. It was sunny, in the high '80's. My wife and I made brunch for Kenneth the Cardinals fan and Jen the just returned from 6 weeks in Australia/New Zealand Red Sox fan. Good food, good friends, lovely weather. When they left around 3:30, I booted up the laptop to check on the Twins game today.

Four hitless innings from Liriano! Span went 0-4 with a walk - must have had a bad day at the plate. Pridie went 2-4 with 2 runs and a SB - must have had a good day at the plate. Rincon gave up 1 run on 3 hits (1 double) in his inning - guess he got shelled!

I noticed from the box score that the game lasted about 2.5 hours, and I decided I had time to listen and find out for myself whether everyone performed as the box score suggested.

Liriano needed 68 pitches to get through the 14 batters he faced, averaging nearly 5 pitches per AB. At that rate, he would need about 150 pitches to finish that no-hitter. Of the 6 balls that were put in play against him, only the first was hit hard. 3 of his strikeouts were looking, so it sounded like his stuff was pretty good - hard to read, hard to square up on the bat. But he had so many balls and deep counts (he allowed 2 BBs), I can't say the outing was an unqualified success. Certainly the best he's pitched so far, but he's not a lock for the rotation quite yet.

Span hit an easy grounder to second in his first AB and drew a 5-pitch walk in his second. His next 2 ABs were sharp 1-hop grounders, one to first, one to third. The one to third was on a 3-2 pitch and required a diving stop and strong throw to just nip Span at first. I suppose Gomez would have beaten it out, but it was still a good AB for Span. In his last time up in the 8th, he drove a ball down the line that the LF hauled in with a running basket catch. The Orioles played pretty crappy defense today, except when Span was hitting.

Neither of Pridie's two hits left the infield. One was a sharp grounder knocked down by the second baseman. The other was a routine grounder to first that was dropped by the first baseman (former Twin Chris Heintz), and pitcher Daniel Cabrera failed to catch his throw covering the bag. Dan Gladden and John Gordon couldn't believe it wasn't ruled an error. Both of Pridie's runs scored on plays that were ruled errors. If the O's had played solid D, Pridie would have been 1-4 at best, with no runs scored.

Rincon gave up a solid line drive down the RF line to Heintz to begin his inning. Cuddyer had just come out of the game, and Jon Knott was slow retrieving the ball, and made a slightly off-line throw to second, allowing Heintz to reach safely. I doubt he would have attempted to take the extra base on Cuddyer. The next batter slipped a 3-hop grounder through the right side to put runners at the corners. Rincon got the next guy to ground into a double play while the run scored. With 2 now out, the next batter's grounder to third was knocked down by minor league third baseman Luke Hughes. He picked the ball up, threw low to Buscher at first, who couldn't handle it, and the batter reached. Again, John and Dan were incredulous that it was scored a hit. The next batter grounded out weakly. So, really, Rincon didn't pitch as poorly as his line would suggest.

Humber, Nathan and Neshek were precisely as good as their lines suggest. The only hit allowed in their 4 innings of work was a bunt single.

Nick Punto, unfortunately, was every bit as bad as his line suggested (0-4 with a strikeout). The low-point came in the 5th. With the bases loaded and 1-out, Punto popped out to the second baseman in foul territory on a 2-0 pitch. Blecch.

Tomorrow should be an eventful day, as the Twins appear poised to announce a contract extension for Joe Nathan. They have also suggested that they will make a round of cuts tomorrow that will determine the outcome of most of the position battles. I assume they will wait until after tomorrow's game with the Cardinals, but stay tuned!

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