Friday, April 24, 2009

Blackburn Owns Cleveland

Twins 5, Indians 1
As bad as things looked in Boston on Wednesday, there was reason to hopeful about tonight. Fausto Carmona was a pain in the butt in 2007, but he hasn't been nearly as good since. More importantly, Nick Blackburn did his best work against Cleveland last season, averaging nearly 7 IP over 4 starts with a 1.30 ERA.

Blackburn was a little shaky through the first 12 hitters, walking the tightrope for 3 innings as the Indians collected 4 H and lined out several times. (Special mention here for Delmon Young doing something right on defense, making a nice sliding catch of Victor Martinez' sinking liner toward the LF corner. If that ball gets down, we've got trouble.) After that, though, Blackburn did a much better job of mixing his pitches. He allowed just 2 H over the next 4 IP, one of which was promptly erased when Grady Sizemore was thrown out trying to stretch his bloop single into a double.

For all his early struggles, Blackburn has still managed to average just over 6 IP for his 4 starts this year, taking the Twins deep into the game with a chance to win. His last 2 outings combine for 13.1 IP, 14 H, 2 BB and 7 K - about the sort of control and K-rate I expected from him coming into the season. Looks like he'll be fine.

I found it interesting that Gardy elected to use Jose Mijares and Joe Nathan for the 8th and 9th innings with a 4-run lead. Those are the guys you'd expect to see utilized in tighter situations. Nathan was the only one who didn't pitch in Boston, so he certainly needed the work. But I think Gardy just didn't feel confident that any of his other relievers could protect the lead. I can't blame him.

The offense employed its typical singles parade, but got some big 2-out hits with RISP from Jason Kubel, Joe Crede, and Jose Morales. 2-4 with a 2B and RBI is the sort of line we're used to getting from our catcher. Denard Span kept his OBP above .400, and Justin Morneau drove in runs with a groundout and his 4th HR, putting him almost back on his RBI pace from last season.

Minor League Notes
Rob Delaney threw another 1.2 scoreless IP with 3 K. For the season, he's now at 12.1 IP, 10 H, 0 BB and 18 K. In case it isn't obvious why I'm so fixated on him and Anthony Slama, let me compare their career minor league numbers:

Delaney: 1.84 ERA, 6.86 H/9, 0.53 HR/9, 1.35 BB/9, 9.81 K/9, 0.91 WHIP
Slama: 1.15 ERA, 5.38 H/9, 0.00 HR/9(!), 2.95 BB/9, 14.03 K/9, 0.92 WHIP

to this guy since 2004:

Nathan: 1.82 ERA, 5.87 H/9, 0.53 HR/9, 2.50 BB/9, 11.02 K/9, 0.93 WHIP

See where this is going? If Delaney and Slama can carry their success up to the Majors, the Twins will essentially have 2 extra Joe Nathans in the bullpen. That will be a fuzzy feeling.

Also, there's this hot catching prospect in A+ Fort Myers named Joe Mauer. He went 2-4 with a 2B and 2 RBI. I know, nothing Morales couldn't do, but I think he ought to get a shot with the Twins pretty soon.

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