Indians 1, Twins 0
Twins 8, Indians 5
Indians 12, Twins 2
Another Thursday, another series lost. But I don't feel too bad about this one. It's hard to lose 1-0 games, but when it's the guy who was the best pitcher in the league last year who shuts you out, well, that's understandable. Obviously, the base-running was terrible, but when Sabathia is that on, you're just not going to win. It's when Vicente Padilla throws a shutout that I get upset. Besides, the valiant start from Scott Baker was precisely what the Twins needed, breaking a string of 11 straight games without a quality start.
I still quibble a bit with the sequence to Garko in the 1st inning: after getting ahead 0-2, Mauer and Baker tried to get him to chase consecutive sliders off the plate (yes!). Garko laid off, evening the count. At that point, I would have liked to have seen them bust him in, keep him thinking the ball might come inside. They went back outside, and even though the ball was 4 inches off the plate, he leaned out and lined it up the middle for the game's only RBI.
Still, a terrific effort from Baker, backed up nicely by Nick Blackburn on Wednesday. The Twins' most consistent starter so far this season, Blackburn showed that Friday's drubbing at the hands of the White Sox was a fluke. Boof Bonser did not inspire confidence out of the 'pen, and Gardy had to bring Reyes in to try to bail him out. Grady Sizemore was not fooled when Reyes tried to slip a breaking ball over the inside corner, and belted a 3-run HR (the first off Reyes this season) to bring the Tribe back within 1. Luckily, Jason Kubel, Justin Morneau, and next-generation piranhas Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla did enough offensively to keep the Twins in front. I must say, it was particularly gratifying to light up Paul Byrd - I've always been irritated that the Twins couldn't be patient enough to knock him around.
The Indians were certainly patient enough to knock around Livan Hernandez on Thursday, proving that his recent string of awful starts (5 GS, 24.1 IP, 11.20 ERA, 2.49 WHIP, 4 HR) is most definitely not a fluke. If the Twins had had the sense to deal him after his start in Colorado, they might have gotten a quality prospect or two, in addition to some extra payroll space. Now, if someone were to offer a Single A bench-warmer and a case of beer, I'd jump at the chance to unload Livan for some kind of return.
But the bad pitching didn't stop there. After Brian Bass doused the situation Livan left in the 4th with a quick DP and flyout, he proceeded to allow 3 ER on 2 H, 2 BB and a HBP while recording just 2 outs in the 5th before being relieved by Craig Breslow (who is, so far, a good pitcher). Boof followed Breslow and allowed 2 ER on 4 H in his inning, although he did strike out the side. Moral victories.
The Twins should have had the stones to shake up their roster before the road trip started, but I guess they just wanted to see which of their option-less pitchers still had it in them to contribute. In that respect, this was a productive series. With Juan Rincon designated for assignment earlier in the day, the Twins got to look at their three worst pitchers in Thursday night's game. All have been on a downward trajectory as bad as Rincon's, all needed to prove that they could eat innings and keep the team in the game, and they all struggled. Any of them (all of them?) could be taken off the 25-man roster at this point and make the team better.
The Twins finally have an off-day on Monday, the day Blackburn should start. Francisco Liriano has put together 3 straight outings in which his K/9 was greater than 9.00, and his control has been much better. He could hardly do worse than Livan. His next start in Rochester will be on Sunday. The Twins should skip Livan's turn in the rotation on Tuesday, pitch Blackburn on 5 days rest instead, then send out Slowey, Perkins and Baker on their normal rest. That would allow Liriano to start at home a week from Saturday. No "seasoned" veterans in the rotation, but when your veteran is as bad as Livan, I'll take the rookies. I would also send Bass down and recall Bobby Korecky.
Hopefully, those and others moves are coming soon!