Twins 5, Brewers 0
That's a song by the Beach Boys, right?
I can't remember the last time the Twins had any trouble in Interleague Play. Generally, they finish up at least a few games over .500. This year, as in 2006, they wound up with the Majors' best interleague record at 14-4. According to Blyleven's California math, that makes the team 2 games under .500 vs. the AL. Since that's who they'll be playing from here on out, they'd better do something about that.
Today's game was a pleasure to watch on so many levels, but I have to start with Kevin Slowey. In his last start, he was just as good, but he had trouble finishing guys off, allowing a lot of foul balls that lengthened ABs and got him over 90 pitches in just 6 IP. Today, his stuff and location was just a bit better, and those fouls turned into harmless fly balls and strikeouts. He did a great job of moving his fastball around and hitting his spots, only using his secondary pitches about 25% of the time. This was his 2nd career CG, and first career shutout. It leaves him with a string of 16 consecutive scoreless innings. Over his last 4 outings, he's thrown 29 IP, 19 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 24 K for a 0.93 ERA and 0.72 WHIP. He's quickly finding himself at the big-league level, and should be a steady performer for the remainder of the season.
Everybody in the lineup got at least 1 H today, except for Brendan Harris, who managed to get himself called out looking at three straight pitches in the same spot on the outside corner in the 3rd. When is he going to start trying to protect that part of the zone?
Ben Sheets looked awesome early. Thanks to a couple of double plays, he faced the minimum through the first 3.2 IP, throwing 43 pitches to that point with 5 K. When Alexi Casilla flailed at his curveball for strike 3, it was Sheets' 5th K in a span of 7 hitters. But the next 3 hitters changed the game with their superior patience at the plate. With Cuddyer heading to the DL, Jason Kubel moved up to the #5 spot, putting the Twins' 3 most disciplined hitters in a row. After quickly falling behind 0-2, Joe Mauer worked sheets to 2-2 before getting a curveball a little up that he could pull into the RF corner for a 2-out 2B. Justin Morneau followed with a 5-pitch walk. Kubel also hung in there after an 0-2 start, battling to 2-2 before getting a curveball up that he could serve into LF for an RBI single. Those 3 ABs cost Sheets 20 pitches, getting him off the CG track he'd been on early.
Brian Buscher led off the 5th with a hit similar to Kubel's, and scored 2 outs later when Carlos Gomez grounded one just inside the bag at 3rd for an RBI 3B. It was only Gomez' 2nd XBH in the past 18 games, so he was overdue for one to find a gap. In the 6th, after Kubel walked, Delmon Young pounced on a hanging curveball for his 2nd HR of the season. It was great to see him open up and pull a ball like that. Finally, it was nice to see Mike Lamb get a hit in the 7th - it was his first start since June 13. He came around to score when Brewers RF Corey Hart failed to hold on after diving for Casilla's drive in the gap; it fell for a 2B.
With their stupendous interleague run over, the Twins must now turn their attention to a difficult stretch of games before the All-Star break. They finish up this home stand with 3 games each vs. Detroit and Cleveland, then travel to Boston for 3 and Detroit for 4. The Tigers are charging up behind the Twins, so these head-to-head games will be an important test to see if the Twins can keep a division power in their rear-view mirror.
Denard Span will join the team in place of Cuddyer beginning tomorrow. I think this is long overdue. He should be given the opportunity to start in CF tomorrow night vs. RHP Armando Galarraga - Gomez hasn't had a day off in a while anyway. I'd like to see Span get every opportunity to prove that he belongs in the leadoff spot for the Twins, as Buscher has been able to do at 3B. This is the first step in upgrading the team for the 2nd half.