Carl Pavano recovered the form he showed in his first two starts, a nice rebound from the shellacking he suffered at the hands of the Royals last weekend. He allowed just 4 H with 0 BB and 5 K in 7 IP for his 3rd QS. He has a 17/1 K/BB ratio through his first 4 appearances.
By contrast, the Twins ground Gil Meche even more than they did last weekend, chasing him from the game in the 4th inning. They drew 5 BB off Meche in addition to 4 H, leading to 4 ER. How great to get into the KC bullpen so early in a series. They allowed 4 R in 5.2 IP, burning out 4 guys for Saturday. JJ Hardy and Jim Thome each hit their 3rd HR, and every Twins starter except Joe Mauer scored a run.
Twins 9, Royals 7 (12 innings)
This was the kind of game the Twins weren't winning for most of the season last year. Like Scott Baker on Thursday, Nick Blackburn wasn't sharp, but he wasn't as bad as the result either. For every drive to the gap he allowed there was a one-armed bloop - even a chopper up the middle that Blackburn knocked halfway back to the plate. On a better day, he won't give up as many XBH, and the poorly hit balls will turn into outs. At least he finally kept the ball in the yard. Though his numbers so far are ugly, he's really only had 2 un-Blackburn games so far. I'm still more comfortable with him than I would be with any of the AAA alternatives.
Orlando Hudson allowed the Twins' first unearned run of the season to come home when he dropped a knuckling liner in the 3rd. That was just their 2nd error of the season. Enter the bullpen, which held the Royals in check for the next 5.2 IP. Jon Rauch finally blew a save in the 11th, but the Twins gave him another chance in the 12th, and that time he held on.
Luke Hochevar definitely outpitched Blackburn, but the Twins did just enough damage to get him out of the game in the 7th - too early for Joakim Soria. Before the 4th inning, I went to get some food, and by the time I rejoined the game about 1 minute after the commercial break, the Twins had already cut a 5-1 deficit to 5-3, thanks to consecutive 1st-pitch 2B from Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer and a 2-base error from Scott Podsednik on Jason Kubel's first pitch drive. When John Parrish came on to face Morneau with 2 out in the 8th, the tying run was at the plate. The KC bullpen couldn't even hold the lead for 1 pitch, as Morneau bombed it over the CF fence for a HR.
I'll take my chances against the KC bullpen any time. Eventually, the Twins took the lead, then took it again for good. Wanna beat the Royals? Just be patient.
Twins 3, Royals 4
For the 4th time in the last 5 series, the Twins failed to convert their opportunity to sweep. Shrug. They're nice, they make up for some eventual series losses, but they're certainly not necessary. Kevin Slowey wasn't nearly as sharp as in his previous start, and this time the offense couldn't come up with a big hit to bail him out. Still, he made it into the 6th inning, and Alex Burnett ate up the last 2 innings of the game for the Twins' weary bullpen.
Despite scoring only 3 R, the Twins' offense was pretty well balanced. Denard Span was the only starter without a base hit, and they drew 4 more BB.
Big series in Detroit this week. The Tigers are the only Central Division team within striking distance of the Twins right now, so this is a great opportunity to further pull ahead of the pack.
- Joe Mauer has started 17 of 19 games behind the plate, including Sunday's day game after a grueling, 12-inning night game. This is insane. I'm sure he feels good - the season's only 3 weeks old, why wouldn't he? But catcher fatigue is a slow burn, and we want him to have something left in August and September. I'm pretty sure this wouldn't be happening if anybody believed that Drew Butera was a competent Major Leaguer. This is why the Twins would have been better off with Wilson Ramos on the team - there's something to be gained from having enough confidence in the backup to rest the superstar once in a while. They can say that Jose Morales has to prove he can throw out base stealers before he'll get recalled, but that's also lunacy. Just get his bat in the lineup and give Joe a breather. If you're worried about SB, don't let fast guys get on base.
- The Royals did a lot of damage to Pavano, Blackburn and Slowey over the past couple weekends. But they're currently leading the league in hitting, with particularly strong performances from Podsednik, Jose Guillen and Yuniesky Betancourt. Think that's going to hold up over 162 games? I'm looking forward to the next time the Twins face the Royals in June. Chances are they'll be hitting more like the Royals then.
- Top prospect Aaron Hicks began the season 1 for 30 (.033/.171/.033) with 5 BB, 10 K and 0/2 SB. Since then he's gone 16 for 30 (.533/.622/.800) with 7 BB, 7 K and 4/1 SB. That gives him a nice overall line of .283/.403/.417. If he can maintain those rates, he should be in Fort Myers by early summer.
- Since his ghastly season debut, 2008 1st-round pick Shooter Hunt has allowed just 3 ER (2.38 ERA) on 8 H and 4 BB (1.06 WHIP) with 17 K in 11.1 IP (13.5 K/9). Finally breathing through his eyelids.