Sunday, September 14, 2008

Happy When It Rains

Twins 12, Orioles 2
Twins 12, Orioles 6

I was upset when Friday night's game was rained out. First of all, with 10 straight games scheduled, it means a disruption to the rotation: Scott Baker either has to pitch on 3 days' rest vs. likely Cy Young Cliff Lee in the finale of the Cleveland series (a game that might be very important for the Twins), or the bullpen will have to do it. Neither option is that appealing. Second, playing 2 games in one day usually precludes using certain players in each game (Joe Mauer, for example), and would require the Twins to use more of their bench than they might ordinarily like (Adam Everett makes an appearance, for example). Then there's also the way double-headers tend to go - as well as you might play in the first game, it's hard to continue it into the second game.

Game one was certainly everything I could have hoped for. Scott Baker was solid once again, allowing just 1 ER on 4 H and 3 BB in 6 IP (why all the walks, all of a sudden?). The offense provided abundant run support, led by Denard Span's 2 HR and 4 RBI, Justin Morneau's 4 H and 2 RBI and Carlos Gomez' 2 H and 4 RBI. As the Twins were piling on in the 9th, I thought to myself, "Shouldn't you guys be saving that for the first inning of the second game?"

Not to worry. The Twins batted around in that inning as well, and Gomez had one more 2 RBI double in him as the Twins jumped out to a 6-0 lead. Matt Tolbert, invisible on the recent home stand despite swinging the bat very well in Toronto, kept it up with 2 triples, a BB, and 3 R. Morneau knocked in 2 more to tie Josh Hamilton for the AL RBI lead. Even Mike Redmond, necessarily catching instead of Mauer, had 2 RBI singles. The offense matched the output from the first game, eventually tallying 12 runs.

This was especially important because Glen Perkins has suddenly become the shaky piece of the rotation. Spotted a 6-0 lead before he took the mound, he gave 2 R right back. After the offense extended the lead to 10-2, he served up another 4 R to the O's in the 3rd. What should have been an easy win #13 for Perk turned into another disappointing ND. Over his last 4 starts, Perkins has thrown just 20.2 IP, allowing 17 ER on 32 H (including 7 HR) and 7 BB for an ugly 7.40 ERA and 1.89 WHIP. Needless to say, that's got to change immediately, particularly since his next 2 starts are against playoff contenders Tampa and Chicago.

Incredibly, the bullpen swooped in and gave the Twins 9 solid IP between the 2 games, allowing only 1 ER on 9 H and 4 BB. I hope they've saved a little bit of that for today. Because, as you all know, now that the Twins have blown the O's out in the first 2 games of this series, they're only going to score 2 R in the finale. That's been the pattern, anyway. I hope I'm wrong!

Michael Cuddyer was activated from the DL and pinch-hit late in the first game. I'd like to see him get as many ABs as possible over the last 2 weeks of the season - get him up to speed. If the Twins do wind up in the playoffs, my preference would be to see Cuddy in the starting lineup instead of Gomez.

Also of note: the 24-8 combined score of the 2 games raised the Twins' run differential for the season to +100. For the first time, that number exceeds the White Sox' total.

As inconvenient as the rainy weather was for the Twins this weekend, it's been even worse for the White Sox. They weren't able to make up their rainout yesterday, meaning they must now try to play 2 games on what should have been a get-away day for them, getting their 10-game road trip off to a late and weary start. And they'll now have to make up the 3rd game some other time, perhaps on the Monday after the season ends, potentially using up a starter they might have wanted for a 1-game playoff with the Twins. We'll see what kind of impact this weekend's wetness has on the remainder of the AL Central race.

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