Thursday, April 3, 2008

Last Year's Model

Angels 5, Twins 4

Greetings from my spiffy new (refurbished) Intel Macbook. I heard a quip on NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" a few weeks back to the effect that the only person more smug than a Mac-using Obama supporter is a Mac-using Obama supporter who listens to public radio. I guess that pretty much makes me the smuggest person in the world. I knew I would be.

Anyway, all of this magnificent Leopard-ness is almost enough to make me forget the the disappointment of this opening series between the Twins and Angels. I felt that the Twins had an excellent chance to win these last two games. Two 1-run losses. The tying run aboard in each case. How to make sense of it? Well...

I hope Slowey is OK. I'm counting on him to be perhaps the most consistent member of the rotation this year, so he needs to be healthy. And no more home runs. That goes for the bullpen as well.

As Bass went out for the start of the 7th inning, I thought back to his spring training start a couple weeks ago, when he was great for 3 innings then got whacked in the 4th. When he took the mound for the 7th today, he was at 2.2 innings. I might have brought in Rincon there. Anyway, he was tired, and he fell behind Torii and Napoli and gave back the 2 runs the Twins had scrounged so hard (for 3 days) to produce. Note for the future - let's try to keep Bass to under 3 innings.

I was pleased to see Reyes succeed in bailing out Rincon in the 8th. 3 appearances, 1 IP, 1 H, 1 K, 0 R. Not too shabby. Then he came out for the 9th to face Torii. I was surprised to see him in there against a righty, but he struck him out. Hah! 2 quick strikes on Kotchman, and I was thinking about how good he looked, when he hung an 0-2 slider and gave up a double. Note for the future - when the batter swings and misses at a filthy slider out of the zone, do not throw the next pitch in the zone.

Guerrier came in and bailed out Reyes, but he threw a ton of balls doing it. Walked one and was 3-2 on the #9 hitter before he got out of it. I hope he finds his command soon. For all that drama, Reyes and Guerrier escaped the series without allowing any runs.

Offensively, it was all the same as the previous 2 games through 5 innings. Particularly early, when Santana needed only 19 pitches to get through the first 2 innings. He cruised through 5 shutout innings. This is a pitcher who came into the game with a career road ERA over 7.00.

Finally, in the 6th, the Twins ground out some productive ABs, Mauer following a Gomez hit with an RBI double, Cuddyer grounding him over, Morneau hitting a SF (a ball out of the infield!). In the 7th, against Darren Oliver, Mauer delivered a SF. In the 8th, Kubel hit the Twins' first HR of 2008. Base runners every inning. This is why the Twins should have been working harder to get to the Angels' weakened bullpen.

In the 9th, pinch-hitter Matt Tolbert once again showed considerable discipline by drawing a walk as the potential tying run (though he should have taken the 1-0 pith in that situation). Gomez showed he had no better chance swinging away against K-Rod than bunting. Then, with 2 out, and first base open, Angels manager Mike Scioscia did a remarkable thing: he intentionally walked Joe Mauer, thereby putting the winning run on. Cuddyer worked the count full, ensuring that both baserunners would have a running start and would certainly tie the game on a single, win it on a double. But Cuddyer struck out swinging.

The Twins pitchers allowed 15 ER to the Angels, a 3.75 team ERA for the series. That was only good for one win, because the offense took 26 innings off in the middle of the series. The undisciplined, quick ABs, the DPs, the lack of power, the solid pitching performances wasted. Despite 5 new faces in the lineup, the 2008 Twins bore more than a passing resemblance to last year's model in this series.

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