Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baby Watch

Twins 7, Angels 2

The due date for my 2nd child was Thursday. That took even my mind off baseball for most of the weekend. On Friday, my wife decided to go to the mall for one last pre-natal outing. We saw "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," which I thoroughly enjoyed. By the time we got back to the house at quarter after 7:00, this game was already just about over.

Brian Duensing seems to know what he's doing. Did he figure something out last year? Were his so-so numbers at AAA a fluke? We'll have to wait and see, but he's been a revelation in the rotation for 2 straight summers. He followed his 3-H shutout from last weekend with this line: 8 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K. That brought his season ERA down to 1.92.

The offense came from a 2-out, 3-run HR from Jason Kubel, some hits strung together in the 4th, and a couple of SF. The pitchers worked quickly, the hitters put the ball in play - a tidy little well-played game.

Unlike this game. Angels starter Trevor Bell had no command. On top of that, umpire Jerry Layne had a rather small strike zone. Bell walked 3 in the bottom of the 1st, the first 2 scoring on Michael Cuddyer's 2-out single, and the 3rd moving Cuddyer into scoring position for Delmon Young. In keeping with a couple of the games from the White Sox series, that big 1st-inning lead was immediately given back by the Twins' starter. Kevin Slowey allowed all the hits he should have given up last Sunday in the 2nd inning. The Angels batted around and scored 4 times. Slowey would have to leave with a sore triceps after pitching out of another jam in the 3rd.

The Twins had an opportunity to immediately equalize in their half of the 2nd. JJ Hardy led off with a BB. At that point, Bell had thrown 38 pitches, only half of which were strikes, while walking 4 of the first 9 batters he faced. For me, that puts the lineup into "take 2 strikes" mode - anything less risks letting a wild pitcher off the hook. Denard Span and Orlando Hudson didn't do that. Span was hit in the foot on the 2nd pitch while showing bunt, but the pitch was ruled a strike because he failed to draw the bat back. There's no sacrificing when a pitcher is this wild! You'll get the lead runner to 2nd base when the pitcher puts you on. Hardy was able to move up on a WP, and Span's fly out moved him to 3rd with 1 out. Still a productive PA, I guess. Ahead 3-1, Hudson reached for an outside pitch and grounded out to SS, holding Hardy at 3B. Had those two come to the plate with the idea of taking 2 strikes firmly in their minds, the Twins could have the bases loaded with no outs for Joe Mauer. That's what Bell gave them, but they didn't take it.

The game got worse from there. Jeff Manship and Glen Perkins combined to pitch 4.2 of the last 6 innings, allowing 3 ER on 8 H and 1 BB. The other 2 runs came as a result of Span dropping the 3rd out of 6th inning on the warning track for an E. That forced Ron Mahay to face one more batter. While attempting to field the squibber behind the mound that resulted from that AB, Mahay slipped and hurt his shoulder - he'll go on the DL. 3 1/2 hours to play 9 innings, 2 E, 2 unearned R, 2 guys on the DL. That's a forgettable game.

No doubt fearing another appearance from evil Scott Baker, the Twins wisely chose to squander their early scoring opportunities. By the time they broke out with a 4-run 5th, good Scott Baker was safely entrenched in a groove of effectiveness - he allowed only a BB in the 2 innings following the outburst.

That included Danny Valencia's 2nd career HR and a 2-out, bases clearing 2B from Michael Cuddyer. Another clean, crisply played game in under 3 hours. I hope our impending labor goes more like this game than Saturday's. (If you don't hear from me after the Texas series, you can guess why...)

  • The Twins finish the season series with the Angels at 5-2, and have gone 11-1 at home so far vs. the AL West.
  • This concludes a 7-2 home stand, and lifts the Twins to 14-6 in August. They have gone a full month since their last series loss. You're savoring that, right? It won't always be like this...
  • Meanwhile, the Sox went to extra innings in all 3 games in Kansas City, and came out on the short end twice. That brings the Twins' division lead to 5 games, and lowers their magic number to 34 with 38 games left to play.

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