Sunday, August 17, 2008

Did We Win?

Twins 9, Mariners 3
Twins 7, Mariners 6
Twins 11, Mariners 8

First, the good news:

The Twins completed a home sweep of the AL's worst team, improving to 17-11 since the All-Star Break, and 12-4 at home. They need to rack up all the home wins they can right now, and so far they're 5-1 on the home stand with Oakland about to come stumbling in to town. Must win that series as well.

The offense scored 7 or more runs on 12 or more hits, including a HR, in each game. Altogether there were 27 runs, 40 hits, 11 doubles, 3 HR and 17 BB against just 7 K. That is a monumentally awesome performance, and they needed every bit of it.

Jason Kubel led the onslaught by going 8-10 with 2 doubles, a HR and 6 RBI. His pinch-hit RBI single in the 8th inning on Saturday night brought the Twins back to even, setting up the winning rally in the 9th. He was so hot Gardy even gave him a start against a LHP on Sunday - and he went 2-2 off the guy!

The series also brought some signs of life to some of the folks in the lineup who'd been slumping recently. Nick Punto went 6-14 with 3 doubles and 2 BB to raise his August OPS up to .675. Justin Morneau went 4-9 with a double, HR and 4 BB to raise his August OPS to .676. You might say, "Those OPS totals aren't that impressive." Yeah, well, you should have seen them three days ago!

Francisco Liriano had his best start of the year so far. He finished 7 innings, allowing 0 ER on just 2 H and 2 BB with 5 K. So far, he hasn't fallen off too far from the sort of performances he was putting up in AAA.

Scott Baker and Glen Perkins were great, too. For 5 innings.

And now, the bad news:

Baseball games last 9 innings, and from the 6th inning on, the Twins allowed 15 of the 17 runs the Mariners got in the series - 14 just on Saturday and Sunday. After cruising through 5 IP, both Baker and Perkins hit the wall hard in the 6th. Baker allowed 3 H and a BB to the first 5 batters of the inning before being replaced by Jesse Crain. Perkins managed to finish the 6th, but not before allowing 3 HR. His location drifted from the corners to the center of the plate, and even the Mariners know what to do with that.

So, bring in the bullpen (gulp!). Crain struck out the first man he faced, then gave up a walk and double to allow the 4th run of the inning. Craig Breslow came in with 2 men in scoring position and allowed the only hit of his otherwise solid relief stint, letting 2 more runs come in. Suddenly, in one trip through the order, a 5-0 lead had turned into a 6-5 deficit.

On Sunday, Boof Bonser was given a 10-4 lead to start the 7th inning. As is all too common with him, he allowed the first 2 batters to reach, and they came around to score, cutting the 6-run lead to 4. After 3 days off to "clear his head," Matt Guerrier was brought in to pitch the 8th. He got one out, but then BB, double, BB and he was off to the showers leaving a mess for Dennys Reyes. I won't criticize Reyes for allowing 2 infield hits (one a bunt single from Ichiro) - at least he didn't throw any wild pitches. Joe Nathan had to come in with the bases loaded and 2 out to finish the 8th (and he had an unusually eventful 9th, allowing a couple of scorching drives to the outfield and a BB to go with a scabby IF hit, loading the bases himself before getting Ichiro to end it).

Here's where I get really concerned: the Mariners are 12th in the league in runs and OPS. Yet they managed to score on the Twins' bullpen in each game, and chase the starters in the 6th in 2 of the 3 games. The starters are, on the whole, much better than the bullpen, so it's critical that they pitch deep into each game in order to minimize the outs needed from the increasingly shaky bullpen. If the 3rd worst offense in the league can do this to the Twins' pitching at the Dome, what's going to happen on the road over the next 2 weeks? I shudder to think. Will the offense be able to offset the damage while facing 3 of the 5 best pitching staffs in the league?

The Twins better rack up a couple more wins at home this week - while the racking is good...

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