Twins 11, Angels 9
I made carrot soup Friday night (from scratch, thank you very much). The recipe said, "bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 25 minutes." I got the boil going right around the start of the 7th inning, and turned off the burner and the game as Matt Guerrier came onto the field. In the time it took the carrots to soften, the bullpen had suffered another interminable inning, and a 3-3 game had turned into a lopsided affair. Again.
And how frustrating, after Nick Blackburn had pitched a pretty good game. The first 3 runs he allowed in the 5th came on a grounder up the middle, a sinking liner just in front of Denard Span in CF, a 4-hopper through the right side to load the bases, and a grounder just past a diving Nick Punto at SS to score 2 runs, plus an RBI groundout on what would have been a DP had Span thrown to the right base on the previous play. Once the first couple hitters reached, Blackburn needed to induce some grounders, which he did, and the runs came home anyway. Arrgh!
The 7th was even worse. Blackburn allowed a 1-2 single up the middle, SB (because the Twins can't throw anybody out right now) and a sac bunt, ending his night at 6.1 IP and 106 pitches. Jesse Crain, the only good reliever in the bullpen up to that point apart from Joe Nathan, got the next hitter on a pop-up, keeping the game tied. The Twins wisely elected to intentionally walk Bobby Abreu (who was constantly on base all weekend) and pitch to Torii Hunter. Crain quickly got ahead 0-2, but Hunter was able to spoil some tough pitches, particularly a 2-2 curveball that just barely found the tip of his bat. He would eventually walk, setting up a bases loaded grounder through the right side from Kendry Morales for a 2-run single. Crain's next pitch was the only mistake of the inning, a hanger that was lined into CF for an RBI single. Then he suffered another lengthy AB, only to walk Juan Rivera on a full count.
I could see where it was going - the same place it had gone all week long vs. Toronto. Another night, another bat-around inning for the opposition, another rough loss for the Twins.
An hour or so later, I got a call from my mom. When she calls after 10:00 during the season, I know something good just happened. I went back to the game, having last checked just after supper with the Angels leading 9-4 in the 8th, and got myself caught up.
The principle differences between this series and the Toronto series were that the Angels were far below full strenght (Maicer Izturis batting 3rd, really?), their bullpen was in an even worse slump than the Twins', and Jason Kubel was en fuego. I had seen him collect an opposite field RBI double, solid single, and stand-up triple (thanks to a fortuitous carom along the baggie) earlier in the game. The best was yet to come.
Every crappy swing that had been taken against the Twins this week had seemed to result in a hit. Where's our BS infield single? Ah, there it is, thanks Michael Cuddyer. And where's our pathetic jam-shot flair over the IF? Ah yes, thanks Mike Redmond. (Credit should also be given to Joe Crede, who hasn't done a lot with the bat yet, but has found a way to be in the middle of some key Twins rallies already. It was his 3-2 BB that forced Morales to hold him on at 1B, too close to the plate to catch Redmond's soft liner.) After a BB, double and K had brought the Twins within 2 runs with 2 outs, Mike Scioscia elected to put the winning run on base by walking Justin Morneau. Kubel waited for a breaking pitch up, crushing it into the upper deck in right center for a go-ahead, cycle-completing grand slam. I remember seeing Kent Hrbek hit a couple of balls up there when I was a kid. That's in the neighborhood of 440 feet. Awesome.
A determined Joe Nathan came in and dispatched the shell-shocked Angels on just 6 pitches for the save.
Twins 9, Angels 2
I got an unhappy sense of deja vu when Kevin Slowey served up a 2-run bomb to Hunter in the second, followed immediately by a drive high off the baggie in right-center. Will he never learn to keep the ball in the yard? Well, yes, I guess he did learn, because he allowed only 3 H and a BB the rest of the way, completing 7 IP for his first QS of the year.
As for the Angels, their pitching depth is so thin right now that they were forced to start Darrin Oliver, who couldn't be expected to throw more than 50-60 pitches. This one night after Shane Moseley had to leave the game after 3 IP with elbow stiffness. That gave the Twins a lot of AB vs. the Angels' 'pen, whose ERA was over 8.00 coming into the game. You know you're facing a bad bullpen when they manage to walk Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young in the same inning. Kubel kept on raking, collecting another 4 H in 5 AB, and the Twins cruised to their 2nd straight win.
Twins 3, Angels 1
I hope the rest of the Twins pitchers are studying Glen Perkins. They all have better stuff than him, but he uses what he has so well. He only allowed a run today because Hunter's exploding bat still managed to produce a single in the 2nd inning. Otherwise, Perkins was dominant, retiring 13 in a row through the middle innings and needing just 84 pitches to complete 8 IP. If Nathan had thrown more innings over the previous 2 weeks, or had there been a game tomorrow, or had the Twins scored 2 more runs, Perkins would have certainly been given an opportunity to complete the game.
I hope everyone has noticed how long Gardy's been leaving the starters in. If you're like me, and you don't believe it's fair to take a QS away from somebody who gives up the disqualifying run in the 7th inning or later, then you'll see that the Twins have had QS in 5 of the last 6 games. The upcoming road trip vs. Boston and Cleveland will be tough, but should give a pretty good indication of whether or not the Twins have managed to right the ship, or are still searching for consistency from the starters.
Juan Morillo claimed, Philip Humber DFA
Just days after dismissing Brian Duensing from the roster, the Twins have done the same with Humber, risking 1/4 of the return for Johan Santana to the waiver wire. Of course, the highest priority for the front office has to be to put a winning team on the field, and there was little indication that Humber was prepared to help with that. He made the least of his 4 appearances in the first week and half, allowing 6 ER on 11 H and 3 BB in 4.1 IP with 4 K. Will he be claimed? On the one hand, he hasn't shown a lot lately. On the other hand, some teams have Darrin Oliver and Shane Loux in their starting rotations, so we'll see.
To replace Humber, the Twins claimed Morillo off waivers from the Rockies. At his best, in 2007, Morillo allowed 54 H, 3 HR and 32 BB with 74 K in 70.2 IP between AA, AAA and the Majors for a 1.22 WHIP and 9.4 K/9. At his worst, last year, he allowed 54 H, 3 HR, 56 BB and 55 K in 60.2 IP between AAA and the Majors for a 1.81 WHIP and 8.2 K/9. The gamble seems to be that pitching coach Rick Anderson can get Morillo to throw strikes, which would make him into a passable middle reliever. If that doesn't work, I suppose the long innings will continue. He had an efficient inning in his Twins debut, so we'll hope for the best.