Monday, April 7, 2008

Justin Time

Twins 6, Royals 4
Royals 3, Twins 1

Great to see the Justin Morneau who signed the big contract finally appear in the lineup. His excellent offensive weekend paved the way to a series win. I got to see most of both games on TV (Sunday in HD - ooooooooh), and noticed some interesting things:

Livan Hernandez is doing his typical April thing. He only gave up a couple of hard-hit balls on Saturday - one when he apparently lost his concentration after a balk (the next pitch was smoked to the wall for a triple). I can't believe he physically tires out as the season goes along, so maybe his problem is mental. Anyway, two 7-inning quality starts, just what he's supposed to do. Should be worth something in a trade later on.

Matt Guerrier needs to stop throwing so many balls. He got away with it again, pitching around a cheap 2-out infield hit and error by Everett. Everett needs to step it up in the infield. The infield hit was a slow chopper up the middle. As he converged on the ball, running toward first base, Tolbert cut in front of him and threw across his body while running toward third base. The shortstop has an easier, shorter throw there, perhaps the difference between safe by half a step and out by half a step. Everett has to call Tolbert off - not only is he captain of the infield, he's played 7 years in the bigs - Tolbert hasn't even played seven games.

Mauer, Morneau and Kubel all swung the bats well this weekend. No surprise there. The surprise is how well Tolbert is swinging. Thanks to his hot start and Harris' flu, Tolbert has nearly as many plate appearances as Everett and Harris. Notice who doesn't have a lot of PAs? Nick Punto, 1 for 3 on the week. All of you who thought Gardy would insist on playing Punto over better hitters owe the skipper an apology.

Boof was solid again on Sunday. He pitched better than Tomko - the reason he gave up more runs is he gave up hits early in the inning, while Tomko was generally able to retire the leadoff hitter.

Which brings us to Carlos Gomez. How interesting to have him and Span hitting back-to-back again. In Gomez' first AB last Monday, he pulled a grounder just fair over third base for a double. In Span's first AB Sunday, he pulled a grounder just foul over first base. Couldn't have been more than an inch foul. Span worked the count full before being retired when Tomko leaped up to stop his bouncer up the middle. He drew a full-count walk in his second AB, then was retired on a sliding stop by the second baseman on an 0-2 swing.

Gomez, meanwhile, on his only base hit of the weekend, a leadoff slicing single to very short right field in the third, got himself thrown out trying to stretch it to a double. Though right fielder Guillen had a long way to run for the ball, he has an excellent throwing arm, and Gomez was easily nailed at second. Two disturbing things about this:

1: do you not know how good the RFs arm is?
2: you're Carlos Gomez - you're going to steal second by the third pitch of the next AB anyway.

He just consistently outruns his brain. Plus, he's struck out 8 times in his first 29 PAs, walking just once. Four of those strikeouts have come on 3 pitches. Span saw 15 pitches in his 3 PAs Sunday. I'll keep tabs on them throughout Cuddy's DL stay.

Lots of good news on the pitching front this home stand. With the exception of the injured Kevin Slowey, each starter pitched at least 6 innings. Even if you throw Slowey in there, the average start this week was 6.1 IP, 3.89 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 2 HR, 1 BB(!), 21 K. That ought to do a lot better than 3-4. But, when the offense averages 2.7 run/game, 3.89 from the starters can be too much to overcome. Too many DPs, too many quick ABs, not enough walks, not enough homers. I'm most concerned about Mr. Lamb after this weekend - he looked awful yesterday, particularly when he dove at a 2-0 changeup with a RISP in the 2nd.

This week the Twins start their road schedule in Chicago. Javier Vazquez has given the Twins trouble in the past, but if Blackburn can back up his performance from last Wednesday, the Twins should be in the game. After an off-day Tuesday, it'll be Baker vs. LHP John Danks, followed by a historic Hernandez/Contreras matchup in the finale. Should be quite a competition to see who can throw the slowest pitch. I hope Gardy will be ready to turn loose the running game on Pierzynski - should be able to steal 3-4 bases/game.

Not a great start to the season, true. But better than the Tigers!

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