Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Split with the Mariners

Twins 6, Mariners 5
Last August, the Twins pitchers had a hell of a time with the Mariners' lineup, yielding an average of 5.7 runs/game. That lineup included Ichiro and Raul Ibanez, though. I really thought the Twins would have an easier time in this series. But there they were again, putting up 5 runs in the first 4 innings against Kevin Slowey.

I was disgusted with the Russell Branyan AB in the 2nd - after getting such a K-prone hitter 0-2, Slowey should have been able to put him away. Why not stay upstairs, where he missed for the second strike? Instead, Branyan was able to work the count to 3-2 while Slowey tried to get him to chase some pitches in the dirt. At that point, I was reminded of an AB Shin-Soo Choo had against Slowey last September, and I heard myself saying what I said back then: "Now, first base is open, so don't do anything stupid here."


Aaargh! Slowey is such a better pitcher than Branyan is a hitter. I think I hold Slowey to a higher standard than the other Twins pitchers. His control is normally so great, I don't have any patience for him having a tough night with his location. 7 of the 9 H Slowey allowed came either when he was ahead in the count or had let someone recover from 0-2. And he let a run come in on a wild pitch. Slowey throws wild pitches? Bah!

Luckily, his mound opponent was not one of the better starters in the league, as had been the case the previous 2 nights. Rather, it was our old friend Carlos Silva, trying to regain his 2004-2005 form and justify his enormous contract. Not this night, as the Twins were able to alternate the expected ground ball hits with drives to the gaps - and over the fences. Justin Morneau got his first 2 H, a double and an upper-deck HR, collecting 3 RBI in the process. Denard Span had another good night at the plate, finally hitting the ball hard as he lifted a 2-run HR over the baggy down the RF line. Jason Kubel had a couple of knocks, including the RBI double that turned out to be the game-winner.

To Slowey's credit, he settled down after the 4th and managed to complete 6 IP, saving the bullpen somewhat. Craig Breslow, Jesse Crain and Joe Nathan each threw a scoreless inning to finish the game. That sequence of pitchers is pretty much what I was hoping to see on nights when the starter only goes 6 IP, so it was encouraging to see that Gardy is still willing to give Breslow a full inning rather than save him for lefties in another situation that may or may not arise.

Seattle 2, Twins 0
You know I don't like to see the Twins losing well-pitched games, but I can tolerate it when it's somebody awesome who shuts them down, like Sabathia or Matsuzaka. When it's Vicente Padilla, or Radhames Liz who's throwing up the zeroes, I find that pretty grating. Jarrod Washburn is in the latter category.

As tough a time as the Twins had squaring him up, a lot of credit has to be given to the M's defense, especially new CF Franklin Gutierrez. The catch he made on Alexi Casilla's drive to the left-centerfield gap in the first could not have come any closer to the turf without being a hit. In addition to the 5 H the Twins were able to accumulate off Washburn, there were probably just as many balls that might have fallen in against a lesser defense.

I started to get that sinking feeling that this was going to be one of those days when everything seems to break the wrong way in the top of the 3rd, when Endy Chavez led off with a grounder just out of the reach of the diving Casilla. The previous inning had seen a hit carry just over Casilla's leap. When their hits are just sneaking through, and yours aren't quite, it might not be your day.

The confirmation came in the bottom of the inning, when Mike Redmond's sharp grounder up the middle hit Washburn and caromed over to the third baseline. Ronny Cedeno hustled in and threw out Redmond by a step. It was bad enough luck that the ball didn't miss Washburn and go into CF, but consider this: the only player in the Major Leagues who wasn't capable of beating that play to first base was a nearly 38-year old right-handed hitting backup catcher with a pulled groin. I'm sure a healthy Redmond would have been safe there.

A shame to waste the first quality start of the season. That's probably about as good as Perkins is going to be this year. Of all the Twins starters, I feel like he's the most determined to throw inside, and I love that, but he's also the most likely to miss his spots and get hammered. Still, it was great to see Gardy leave him in there to pitch the 8th. He might have had a CG had he not run into consecutive 11-pitch ABs in the 7th.

On to Chicago, where the White Sox were able to muster just 5 runs in 3 games vs. the Royals.

Minor League Notes
In the season opener for Rochester, the 'Wings were able to slug their way to victory behind 2 pairs of back-to-back HR, 1 each from Luke Hughes, David Winfree, Trevor Plouffe and Dustin Martin. And in AA, stud relievers Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama made impressive season debuts: each allowed no runs on 1 H. Delaney got 2 K and Slama struck out the side. I'm hoping both of those guys will pitch well enough to get to Rochester by mid-season.

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