Sunday, May 10, 2009

25 Good Innings

Twins 11, Mariners 0
Twins 9, Mariners 6
Mariners 5, Twins 3

The Twins came within 2 innings of a weekend sweep in which they never trailed - quite a departure from the first couple weeks of the season. Some observations from the series:

Last season I predicted that Joe Mauer would have a breakout year in the HR department because, with his legs back under him, all those warning track outs to left-center would have just enough extra on them to carry into the seats. It didn't happen in 2008, but so far he has 3 HR in his first 33 AB of 2009, all of them just over the wall in left-center. Mauer has been all-around awesome since coming off the DL. He'll cool off, of course, but there's no reason to think that this can't be his best ever OPS season. Provided he stays healthy, of course.

Right behind him is Justin Morneau, who twice followed Mauer's HR to left with blasts to RF, and came very close to having a 3rd straight game with a HR when his 3rd-inning drive on Sunday hit the top corner of the baggie in deep right-center. (That makes 2 balls from Morneau so far this season that would have been out just about everywhere but the Metrodome.)

As well as those two are swinging, I think it's time to move Cuddyer up in the order, if not between them, then certainly right after Morneau. For Cuddyer, the signal of whether or not he's seeing the ball well is his walk rate, which has been through the roof in recent weeks.

Scott Baker finally put it all together. He was so close to that level in his previous start - his failure last Sunday was in allowing all his hits consecutively - that I feel pretty confident that he's ready to resume his position as the Twins most consistent starter.

Did Francisco Liriano's outing on Saturday remind anybody of Baker's the previous week? He only made it once through the order without a hit, but it still fell apart awfully quickly. Thank goodness he got plenty of run support.

Nick Blackburn has, for the most part, been pretty good about following a poor start with a good one. That was the case again on Sunday, when he pitched his best all-around game of the season, allowing only 5 H and 1 BB in 7 IP with 6 K - nearly matching Baker's outing. I was impressed with how Blackburn was able to pitch out of a runners at the corners with no out jam early in the game.

With Blackburn at 99 pitches and lefties Ichiro and Griffey Jr. due up in the 8th, it made sense to go to the LHP 8th inning guy, Jose Mijares. He was scored upon for the second straight outing, in this case on a game-tying HR to Griffey. Griffey, by the way, is slugging .611 vs. the Twins this year, and just .317 vs. everybody else. Jesse Crain came on and failed to retire a batter, including sending a run home on a WP. The first batter he faced was Adrian Beltre. He's sluggling .680 vs. the Twins, but just .243 vs. everyone else. So what does everybody else know that the Twins pitchers don't?

Sunday was a rare example of a game in which the team that threw drastically more pitches managed to win. I love that the Twins, having chased Seattle's starters early on in the first two games of the series, were able to grind Erik Bedard out of the game with 110 pitches thrown in just 4.2 IP. It's a credit to Bedard's abilities that he was able to limit the damage to just 2 runs. Anyway, that kind of patient approach is going to pay dividends if the Twins will keep it up in future games.

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