For a pitching staff that has gotten and earned an awful lot of praise this year, they looked pretty bad against a meager, pathetic San Fransisco team. Before coming to the Metrodome Tuesday, the Giants put two more players, third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo and outfielder Marquis Grissom, on the 15-day disabled list. Without Alfonzo, Grissom, or Bonds, who is still rehabing his knee, the Giants have had to fill all sorts of holes in their lineup and rotation with rookies and Triple-A regulars. Looking at the names--Linden, Ellison, Cruz--the only hitters with some power are Moises Alou, Ray Durham, and Pedro Feliz. Despite this, the Twins and mainly Kyle Lohse managed to lose 8-4 tonight. I was at the game and I felt the whole time that we should be beating this team left and right, but Lohse had a Radke-esque first inning, allowing four runs, before settling down for the next six and J.C. Romero allowed a ninth-inning homer to Omar Vizquel.
Lohse, whose recent success has been due to a changed approach and selection of pitching, didn't seem to have the same mentality to begin the game. He wasn't going after hitters with his two-seamer, trying to get ground balls and following the success of teammate Carlos Silva. Instead, he reverted to the old Lohse for the first and third innings and only showed his new approach in the other innings. Its the same frustrating inconsistency he has shown since his call up in 2001. Sometimes it seems that its impossible to convince Lohse that what he is doing isn't working and that, in fact, most major league hitters can handle his fastball easily and that he may be problematic for coaches to work with. I say this mainly because he is surrounded by similar pitchers, like Silva, Mays, and Radke who know (besides Radke's first inning woes) how to use their abilities to their advantage. With such influences, Lohse should have figured out how to use his gifts consistently.
Other than Lohse struggles, there was some other frustrating plays. Jacque Jones' play in the first that allowed two runs to score was a bad fundamental play for two reasons: For one, the throw was bad following a misplay of the Tucker flyball, as he did not hit the cutoff man, allowing Tucker to go to third and another run to score. He also did not approach the line drive from the right angle, diving and missing it instead of cutting the angle and getting it back to the infield. If he had done so, he could have made a good throw and prevented a run or maybe two. Instead, Tucker came in and four runs had come across in a quick and ugly first.
Otherwise, it was the usual from the offense: Some good timely hits, but too many misses and an inability to knock anything off the horrible Giants bullpen. Joe Mauer and Shannon Stewart both had good games, getting two hits each, and Mauer look very well, hitting the ball hard to the opposite field and rapping two doubles off of Giants starter Noah Lowry. Other than that, it was Torii Hunter's two-run, line-drive homer in the fourth that gave the Twins their four runs. But, like their hitting against Foppert last night, for Lowry's lack of control and the ineffectiveness of the Giants' bullpen this year, they should have scored a lot more.
Out of all our hitters, Justin Morneau looked the worse, weakly popping out to the outfield and ending a rally with a weak double-play grounded directly to the shortstop. He is just not getting done at all, as he simply cannot adjust to outside pitching. Someone needs to get to this guy and let him know to use his power in ways other than trying to pull the ball all the time. Step into those outside fastballs the way a Jim Thome or Carlos Delgado does and use your strength to take it out the other way, Justin. I would love to see Morneau reach that level, because it would take our whole offense to the next level, as the lineup would be built around a power guy who could get good pitches for the guys around him. (As Bonds does for the Giants) Guys like Hunter and Ford, who live off of bad fastballs, would rack up RBIs left and right and the Twins could score a lot more runs and thus, take pressure off their pitching staff. That would the path to a good playoff run. Its not to say that our season rest on Morneau's shoulders, but he is certainly a wild-card that could make or break the season on the basis of whether or not he finally breaks out. Let's hope that tommorow's game, though not televised, looks a lot better than this. We should be able to knock Jason Schmidt around, as he has looked awful all year after two years of Cy Young contention for the Giants.