Saturday, July 26, 2008

Livan vs. Liriano

Indians 5, Twins 4

We flew into Minneapolis/Saint Paul airport yesterday evening en route to our cabin in the Dells on Saturday. My dad picked us up and turned the game on just in time to hear it was 4-0 Indians in the first inning and the 8th man was coming to the plate. I nodded philosophically. After 9 batters and 1+ IP, Livan Hernandez had given up 5 ER on 6 H with 0 K. After that, he went 7 IP, allowing 0 ER on 6 H and 3 BB with 6 K.

This is what I was talking about in my last post. Why does Livan get to give up 5 ER in 1+ IP and complete the game, but Nick Blackburn gives up 3 ER in 1.2 IP and gets pulled? Maybe he could have made an adjustment, too. Maybe that would be a good thing for a young pitcher in a pennant race to learn how to do.

Anyway, the odds never looked good for the Twins in this game. Cliff Lee is one of the league's best pitchers, and Livan is one of the worst. Plus, it was on the road. But the Twins made it close, thanks to some timely hitting from Jason Kubel, Denard Span and Joe Mauer. The lefties in the lineup went a combined 5-13 against Lee - righties went 1-16. Then the Twins rallied against the Indians' incendiary bullpen, getting 3 straight hits to start the 9th. Mike Redmond pinch hit and lined out to first on a diving stop by Ryan Garko. Nick Punto's 2-out grounder through the pitcher's legs hit the rubber and slowed up enough for Asdrubal Cabrera to make the play. Another tough loss, but I like the matchup a lot better tomorrow.

I wish I'd been able to watch the first inning, because one of the things I noticed when I got home and put the TV on was what a huge strike zone Tim Tschida was giving both pitchers. Cliff Lee is tough enough without having a 23-inch wide strike zone. Livan is usually a nibbler - why wasn't he stretching the plate in the first inning? Those balls were bombed all over the field. Carlos Gomez finally knocked himself out making a nice catch in the first, and Span nearly did the same thing later in the inning. If he had managed to hold onto the ball as he hit the wall, the Twins might have won the game.

However, Livan's performance hinged on a couple of DPs. The first was yet another rocket that just happened to find its way into Brendan Harris' glove on the short hop. A couple of inches further away from him, and it's at least 6-1 with 2 on and 1 out in the 3rd inning, and it's Boof Bonser time. Yes, Livan eventually found his stuff, but his line for the night of 8 IP, 12 H, 5 ER, 3 BB and 6 K still works out to a 5.63 ERA and 1.86 WHIP.

Now, raise your hand if you think Francisco Liriano could have done better.

With the Span/Gomez question finally settled, this is going to be my new cross to bear. I think Liriano had definitely shown enough by the All-Star break to take Livan's spot in the rotation. He wouldn't have made much difference last Saturday, but tonight would have likely been a win with better starting pitching. That's at least 1 more win the Twins could have if they'd been sensible enough to ditch Livan. But who's counting?

Oh, I guess I will.

It was funny to listen to Ron Coomer downplay Liriano's recent run of success, actually denigrating his control (42 K/5 BB over his last 35 IP) by saying that AAA hitters are swinging at lots of pitches out of the zone. I think that speaks as well to the deceptiveness of Liriano's stuff as it does the immaturity of AAA hitters. I'm not saying he's going to come up and allow 1 ER in 35 IP. Maybe he allows 3 ER a game, like Glen Perkins. If our starter had allowed 3 ER last night instead of 5, the Twins would have won.

How much longer must he (and the rest of us) wait?

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