Friday, May 8, 2009

Rainy Days in Baltimore

Orioles 4, Twins 1 (6 innings)
Orioles 5, Twins 4

Things did not go the Twins' way on the back half of this road trip. Where their earlier rain-shortened game in Boston was merciful, coming with the score 10-1 Red Sox with 2 men still in scoring position, Wednesday's early finish was frustrating. The Orioles don't have nearly the bullpen depth that the Sox do, so there was still plenty of time for the Twins to make up a 3-run deficit.

The weather turned it into a game where the team that started fastest was likely to win, and the O's got 3 runs in the first off of Kevin Slowey. Most of the pitches they hit were down in the zone, but the O's raked them for line drives anyway. A grounder over 3B, a HR off the foul pole, a 2B on a play where Michael Cuddyer's throw to second arrived in plenty of time but was off line. I wonder what kind of game Slowey would have been able to make it had he been able to throw more than 3 IP, but the repeated delays caused him to be removed early. At least the shortened game meant that the Twins bullpen didn't have to throw 6 innings.

I thought Glen Perkins did a creditable job on Thursday, lasting 6 IP despite being unable to throw his offspeed pitches for strikes. That enabled to the O's to sit on the fastball, and they opened up and turned on a few for some key hits, especially the 2-out RBI single from Cesar Izturis (which followed Greg Zaun's swinging bunt single to 3B).

The Twins offense, meanwhile, reminded me of the second game against Boston 2 weeks ago, but this time they actually got the 14 H. But 4 R on 14 H + 2 BB is not a good ratio. The Twins hit into 2 DP and saw Delmon Young caught stealing second (he picked the right pitch to run on, and the throw was way off the mark on the 1B side, but Young's jump was so poor that he was still tagged on the hand a few feet from the bag). In addition to that, there was the tumbling catch of a liner hit by Matt Tolbert, the diving catch of a slicing drive hit by Justin Morneau, the leaping catch of a liner hit by Joe Crede. Morneau also drove a ball to the wall in right center. The O's D kept them in the game until the 8th.

In the bottom of that inning, Jose Mijares threw a ton of strikes: 14 of his 18 pitches. But 2 of them missed his location within the zone: a belt-high fastball that Melvin Mora lined into left for a 1-out single, and the 0-2 pitch to Ty Wigginton. Having got ahead with 2 good curveballs, Joe Mauer set up for a fastball low and away, but it drifted over the plate where Wigginton could ground it past Nick Punto for a 2-out hit. Lou Montanez then did a good job going down and lining a 1-2 curveball into LF. Denard Span would have had a good shot at Aubrey Huff at the plate, but he couldn't get a handle on the ball right away, so Crede elected to cut off the throw home and get Wigginton on his way to 3rd.

Second Base Swap
The big news of the series was the demotion of Alexi Casilla to AAA and recall of Tolbert. Tolbert had also started pretty slowly for Rochester, but was starting to get hot in the past week, so the timing may be good here. It's almost certainly an upgrade - it would be tough for Tolbert to fail to exceed Casilla's .167/.231/.202 line, and I can't imagine Tolbert ever losing focus as Casilla often has recently. We'll see whether Casilla can get it going and come back stronger as people like Scott Baker and Jason Bartlett have been able to do.

While we're on the subject of demotions, it might make sense to send Carlos Gomez down to Rochester, where he can get 4-5 PA every day and refine the missing pieces of his game. Jason Pridie, like Tolbert, has heated up recently, and is also a fleet OF and good baserunner. He could fill the role Gomez currently has just about as well, enabling the higher-upside player - Gomez - to get in better position to fulfill his potential.

Minor League Notes
Luke Hughes has also been hot lately for the Redwings; his season line is up to .279/.376/.547 with 5 HR - too many Ks (23 in 86 AB) and E (6) so far, but on the right track. Top 10 prospect Anthony Swarzak has a 2.03 ERA and 0.94 WHIP with a 23/6 K/BB ratio in 31 IP through his first 5 GS. That might put him ahead of Kevin Mulvey on the depth chart (2.96 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 22/12 K/BB in 24.1 IP).

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