Saturday, June 28, 2008

10 in a Row

Twins 7, Brewers 6

A fine comeback for the Twins, and the winning streak reaches 10 games. Both of those elements were missing from last year's disappointing season. There were several times last summer when the Twins would rattle off a few wins (2nd-half sweeps of Oakland and Baltimore come to mind) and I'd think, "at last, they're going to get rolling." Then they would backslide as quickly as they'd surged.

It's hard to imagine a winning season without a long winning streak taking place at some point. They had the 11-gamer and two 8-gamers in 2006, the 11-gamer in September 2003, the 15-gamer in 1991. Subtract those winning streaks, and those Twins teams were only a few games over .500 - with the streaks, they were pennant winners. A period of over a week in which just about everybody is playing well, and they're getting the breaks as well.

While it was routine for the 2006 Twins to recover from early deficits, last year's team rarely showed so much life. So it's most encouraging to see the team continue to battle against one of the better teams in the NL after falling behind by 3 runs. It's been almost expected for the Twins to come back and score in the half-inning after falling behind, and it happened again last night. Our starter was chased after 4.2 IP, and we came right back and chased their pitcher after 4.2 IP, narrowing the gap to just 1 run. The way things have been going, 1 run is no concern at all.

Nick Blackburn was pretty dreadful last night, so dreadful, in fact, that I'm not worried in the slightest, though this makes 2 starts out of 4 in which he's been beaten up pretty badly. All 6 R he allowed came on 4 HR; other than that, we're looking at 5 H and 5 K in 4.2 IP. He came into the game having allowed 7 HR in 15 GS cover 93 IP - that's a guy who knows how to keep the ball in the yard. So I look at last night's results and clearly see a fluke. His fastball was out of control: when he could get it to sink, he couldn't throw it over, and when he threw it over, it didn't sink. Dick and Bert made much of how he'd thrown just 89 pitches in 16 days prior to the game last night, and sinker-ballers tend to have trouble when they've had too much rest. I'm sure he'll be back to business as usual when he faces the Tigers on Wednesday.

What is it that happens to Joe Mauer at the plate when he comes home? He was already hitting about .100 points higher and over .200 points of OPS better at home when this week began. He went 1-9 in San Diego, but last night was 2-4 with a BB, 2B, HR, and his 2 outs were a fly to warning track in CF, and a liner to second. Glad he'll be home for the next 9 days. He now has 3 HR in June, about the number I figured he'd hit every month, leaving him with 15-20 by the end of the season. He'll really have to pick up the pace to meet those numbers now.

Alexi Casilla continued to show why he's ready to stick in the big leagues. He worked the count to 3-1 before turning on his 4th HR, followed Gomez' inning-opening bunt single with one of his own in the 3rd, then made a spectacular diving stop on a Prince Fielder grounder in the hole. Two of those plays weren't friendly to his finger, and he's day-to-day with a middle-finger sprain of his left hand. Those are the ones that can really nag a baseball player, so I hope Punto can fill in ably for a few days while Casilla gets better.

Another big win for the bullpen, as Brian Bass, Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan combined for 4.1 IP, 0 R, 3 H, BB, 4 K. Bass looked particularly good, getting 2 K in his 2.1 inning stint. He's doing a good job of keeping his stock relatively high. Guerrier had to walk somebody (of course), although I thought the ump could have wrung him up on the 2-2 pitch.

Livan Hernandez vs. Manny Parra tonight in a battle of pitchers with 1.61 WHIPs. Hopefully the offense can do enough damage to make up for the starter again tonight.

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