Sunday, July 18, 2010

Not To Worry

Twins 7, White Sox 8

The Collapse lingered for one game after the break. Kevin Slowey left the game in the 4th without retiring a batter, having already surrendered 5 ER on 9 H. To be fair, a lot of the damage done against him was the result of dinky singles from Juan Pierre followed by expertly placed hit and run singles from Omar Vizquel. The Sox executed 4 hit and runs on the night, three of which scored on SF and one on a balk. If the runner isn't going on a couple of those 4 singles, the Sox maybe come up a run short in this game.

Brian Duensing would have been the perfect guy to come in for long relief in this game, but he was under the weather. Alex Burnett came on instead. He stranded Slowey's last runner, but couldn't get anyone out in the 5th, allowing a BB, the hit and run single, the balk, and a booming RBI 2B. After that, Gardy brought in the veterans, and Jesse Crain, Ron Mahay and Matt Guerrier held the Sox scoreless over the last 5 innings. But the damage had been done.

7 runs should have been plenty to win this game, so the offense did their job. After Delmon Young's fly ball to the track in LF for the second out of the 2nd, the Twins saw 7 consecutive batters reach, capped by Joe Mauer's bases clearing 2B over third base. But there were opportunities for more: After Nick Punto's leadoff bunt single (which Dick Bremer called - if he could see it coming, why couldn't Ozzie?), Denard Span popped out on his bunt attempt. Had he gotten it down and moved Punto to 2nd, he would have easily scored on Mauer's 2-out single. Orlando Hudson led off the 7th with a 2B, but was unable to advance to 3rd on Mauer's fly ball to CF. From 3rd, he would have scored easily on Cuddyer's fly ball to LF. The Twins loaded the bases with 2 outs in the 8th, but came up empty.

Twins 7, White Sox 4

The bullpen once again overused, the Twins needed a big start from Francisco Liriano. He allowed the obligatory 1st inning BB and bunt single, but this time escaped unscathed. After that, he was in control. He made a mistake on a 2-strike fastball that Gordon Beckham lined into the RF corner for a 2B - Beckham scored moments later on a chip-shot single from Pierre. His only other mistake came after he should have been out of the game - a swinging 3rd strike that would have ended the 8th skipped away from Joe Mauer, extending Liriano for one more batter, Paul Konerko, who beat him for an RBI 2B. But, overall, Liriano was stupendous: 7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K.

The offense did plenty again, though 11 of their 12 H were singles. They were aided by sloppy play from the Sox fielders. The Twins got 2 extra outs to play with in the 4th, turning what should have been a single run rally into a nice crooked number (4). They tacked 3 more in the bottom of the 8th, again thanks to an extra out from the Sox defense.

It was a good thing they got those extra outs and runs, because Jon Rauch had no idea where the ball was going. He allowed 5 baserunners in just 0.1 IP, including 3 BB; only 9 of his 23 pitches were for strikes. Though he had thrown nearly 30 pitches the day before, Crain came in and retired the last 2 batters on 4 pitches, stranding the tying run at 1st for his first save of the season.

Twins 3, White Sox 2

This is probably what most games were like 100 years ago. Each starter went the distance, combining for 199 pitches. They had 9 K between them, allowed 1 HR and finished the game in 1:52, the 3rd shortest game of the season. Mark Buehrle threw about 2/3 of his pitches for strikes; for Carl Pavano, it was about 3/4.

All of the damage against Buehrle was done by 4 consecutive batters at the start of the 2nd inning. Michael Cuddyer led off with a fly ball so close to the foul line that he couldn't decide whether to run to first - it landed a few inches fair and kicked into the stands for a 2B. Delmon Young followed with a little chip shot over the SS for an RBI single. Then Jason Kubel and Danny Valencia came about 3 feet short of hitting back-to-back HR - each of their booming drives hit the top of the fence and drove in runs.

All of the damage against Pavano was done by Paul Konerko: a 2-out RBI single in the 1st and a solo HR in the 4th on an 0-2 pitch. After that, both pitchers settled down to soar through the middle innings. Pavano found himself in a jam in the 9th when Vizquel led off with a 2B and moved to 3rd on a grounder. That brought Konerko to the plate, and Pavano fanned him on 3 pitches, then got Quentin to end the game. It's wonderful to see veteran pitchers who have earned the trust of the managers - too rare these days.

Twins 7, White Sox 6

The Twins may have gotten the best of both worlds on Sunday. They got a decent enough start from Nick Blackburn through 5 IP: 6 H, 2 ER, 0 HR, 0 BB, 1 K. His biggest mistake up to that point was hitting Alexi Ramirez leading off the 5th - he came around to score Chicago's 2nd run. The 6th inning started with a pretty weak groundball single from Alex Rios. Blackburn made a mistake to Konerko for a line drive single. But his last pitch was actually below the strike zone, even though Quentin blasted it to the wall in right center, scoring 2 runs. Quentin would eventually score, leaving Blackburn with an ultimately ugly 5 ER in 5+ IP.

And that's a blessing, really, because it should help to add fuel to the fire we hope is burning under Bill Smith in his pursuit of another SP for the stretch run. And it allowed Duensing to come in and throw 4 innings of 1-run ball in relief, setting himself up for 65 or pitches when he takes Blackburn's place in the rotation next week. (Surely, he'll be taking Blackburn's place in the rotation next week, right?)

The really good news is that the Twins won in spite of Blackburn's struggles. They began the 9th with consecutive walks from Hudson and Mauer, then RBI singles from Cuddyer and Kubel. Bobby Jenks was replaced, but Jason Repko was due up, having PR for Thome. He drew a 5-pitch walk, loading the bases for Young, who once again delivered with a blooper to short CF, tying the game. Then Rios, in what must have been a momentary loss of concentration, heaved the ball over the IF - the nearest Sox to it were the guys in the dugout. Cuddyer trotted home with the winning run.

The Twins needed to win this series, and they did that. As well as the Sox have been playing lately, they can make mistakes, just like everyone else. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, the Indians swept the Tigers in a 4-game series. The Indians. I should be worried about Detroit? I don't think so. This sets a nice tone for the 2nd half. Now the Twins play a series of losing teams over the next 2 weeks. Gotta make the most of that.

  • Jose Morales threw out 2 base stealers on Sunday. He also had 2 H, his 4th multi-hit game in a row and 7th in 8 games. I know he's going to allow a few passed balls, and I know Pavano is getting comfy with Drew Butera. But, c'mon. .200 points of OBP has to be worth more than a few PB here and there.


Ben said...

I was really unimpressed with his defense when Mauer was out for the first month of 2009. I hope he's improved a lot.

neckrolls said...

Morales is not going to impress with his defense. But he's going to get on base more than twice as often as Butera. Is his defense as big a liability as Butera's bat is? I don't think so.