Monday, September 8, 2008

Falling Fast

Twins 10, Tigers 2
Tigers 6, Twins 4
Tigers 7, Twins 5

Coming home does not seem to have solved the Twins' problems. The bullpen showed it is just as capable of throwing away an 8th inning lead in MN as on the road. After a brilliant August, Glen Perkins had his second straight shaky start in September. The Twins are just 1-5 in their first week of this month, and must turn things around immediately if they are to keep pace with the White Sox.

On a positive note, Francisco Liriano was awesome on Friday night. His slider was working, and he wasn't afraid to use it. The velocity of his pitches is still well short of his 2006 stuff, but he isn't too much less effective for it. Scott Baker was also terrific in his start. Ultimately, too many walks, but he got the Twins into the 8th inning with only 2 R allowed, and the bullpen should have been able to take it from there. Also, a good effort by the top of the order, as Denard Span reached in 7 of 15 plate appearances and scored 5 R, Alexi Casilla reached in 7 of 14 PAs and scored twice, and Joe Mauer reached in 7 of 14 PAs, scoring 3 times.

Unfortunately, Mauer could not come up with the big hit with runners on base. Justin Morneau drove in 8 R over the weekend, but failed to drive in any on Saturday, despite batting 3 times with runners on 3rd, including twice with the bases loaded. Dennys Reyes was the right guy to bring in against Curtis Granderson on Saturday, but he made perhaps his worst pitch of the season, hanging a 1-1 slider that Granderson blasted for the game-tying HR. Had Reyes gotten Granderson out, I might have liked to see Joe Nathan come on to face the heart of the Tigers' order. But, with the game tied already, might as well bring in Matt Guerrier, who had great lifetime numbers against all those guys. Naturally, he didn't retire any of them and continued his second-half implosion.

After Nick Punto reached with a marvelous AB leading off the 9th on Saturday, I couldn't believe that Gardy didn't pinch-hit for Carlos Gomez. He's been doing it with great frequency over the past couple of weeks, and he had the AAA batting champ on his bench, with the speedy Jason Pridie available to pinch-run and take over in CF should Randy Ruiz reach. Instead, Gardy left his most K-prone hitter in there, and Gomez promptly struck out on three pitches. That was tantamount to giving away 1 of the Twins' final 3 outs.

The Twins are 2 games behind where I'd hoped they'd be after 6 September games. That makes this upcoming series with KC a must-sweep. The Twins must also hope that the Blue Jays continue their inspired play vs. the White Sox. It's still not too much to ask that the Twins could be within 2 games of the White Sox when they face each other the last week of the season, but the margin for error has pretty much evaporated over the past 2 weeks. When they do face the White Sox, they certainly must play better than they just did against the Tigers.

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