Saturday, May 28, 2005

Pitching Wins the Day

Other then a few good situational hitting moments tonight, the Twins won on the power of Kyle Lohse's pitching performance. Although there were a few moments of tension and poor pitching, mainly in the 7th, it was overall a very impressive, seven-inning performance in which he allowed six hits and one earned run while walking none and striking out three. It dropped his ERA to a very respectable 4.22 and got him his 4th win of the season. After starting the season badly enough to get temporarly demoted to the bullpen. Now, in his past two starts, Kyle has been using his two-seamer very well to induce groundball outs and to keep hitters from sitting on his four-seamer, which is faster but has little to no movement. That, combined with a good slider, has made Lohse finally show the potential he has had all the years. I just hope this time he goes a run and keeps this up for a long time.

Besides Lohse great pitching, the Twins had very little else going on. Justin Morneau continued his terrible slump, going 0 for 4 and dropping his average to .299. As my associate pointed out, Morneau is getting pitched with fastballs on the outside corner and good breaking balls on the inside part of the plate and Morneau is not adjusting at all. He is, instead, entering the poor habit of trying to pull everything. That will make him the strikeout-machine Russell Branyan is instead of the potential Jim Thome-ish hitter he could be if he tries to take the outside pitch and go with it. Only then will he have consistent success. And that lies on the shoulders of the hitting coach, Scott Ulger, who seems to have done very little to help Justin. He is so bad, apparently, that for Torii Hunter to get a few hits, he had to talk to Jerry White instead. That may be a strech, but he needs to sit down with Justin immediately to help him out of this slump.

Other game notes:

* Shannon Stewart continued his great hitting, going 2 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs. He has hit .323 his past seven games, with 3 HRs giving him a team-leading 8 HRs. He has been the team's best hitter and the reason they have won several of their last games.

* Other than Stewart, there was very little production in the Twins lineup. Juan Castro had another good offensive night, going 2 for 3 witha home run for the second consecutive night. Besides Castro and Stewart, only Michael Cuddyer and Nick Punto had hits. They managed a meager 6 hits against the Blue Jays staff, having the luck of getting two unearned runs in the second on a Erik Hinske error. This kind of offensive output cannot continue, because the Twins can't expect their pitching to carry them all season.

* The Twins had two errors, including a terrible throw from Justin Morneau in an attempt to complete a double-play in the third, throwing it past Juan Castro into center field and allowing Toronto to get a runner in scoring position and eventually, to score. This trend of bad fielding is also a concern, as Cuddyer now has 10 errors and Morneau continues to show his inexperience in the field.

* Joe Nathan picked up his 15th save, but only after a 9th inning in which he allowed two earned runs, three hits, and nearly blew the Twins' lead. He's look hittable and out-of-control of late and once again, the Twins coaching staff looks worthless in trying to figure out Nathan's problems, just like JC's. What does Rick Anderson do anyways?