Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Middle of the Lineup Leads the Way

The Twins are now only two miniscule games behind the Chicago White Sox. A sweep with two wins today and tommorow, and they may have a tie for the Wild Card, unless the Yankees have something to say about it. Of course, there are over two months left in the season, so we can't really draw conclusions at this point. However, three big home runs last night certainly made a statement to the White Sox on their home field.

Of the seven runs the Twins scored en route to a 7-4 victory, six came on home runs from Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau. If you're keeping track, that's the 3-4-5 hitters not only doing their job, but winning the game for the Twins. Cuddyer started the scoring, following a Nick Punto hit and a Mauer strikeout with an absolute blast to right field. Not to be shown up, Morneau came up and promptly deposited a Javier Vazquez fastball just over the right field wall.

However, the best was saved for last. In the seventh inning, Jason Tyner and Jason Bartlett chased Vazquez with straight singles to start the inning. Neal Cotts was brought in and got the first two outs, getting Luis Castillo on a weak popup and getting Nick Punto to ground into a fielder's choice, with Tyner getting "thrown out" at the plate on a controversial call. That left Mauer at the plate with two runners in scoring position (after a Punto steal) and two outs facing a lefty. After working the count to 3-1, Mauer took a Cotts fastball and deposited it over the center field fence for a three-run shot, his first homer of the year against a southpaw. That gave the Twins more than enough cushion, giving them a 6-2 lead. Before the at-bat, Mauer was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, but with the home run and his sac fly in the ninth, Mauer ended the night with four RBI.

Other than the middle of the order, which went 5-for-14 with 3 HRs and 7 RBI collectively, the other production came from the ever-impressive Tyner and Bartlett, who had three hits apiece. That gives the Twins eight and nine hitters with .372 and .316 batting averages respectively. Not too shabby. The only bad offensive aspects of the night were watching Jason Kubel and Rondell White go 0-for-8.

Pitching-wise, Brad Radke continues to have a good second half. With the victory, he is now 9-7 with a 4.74 ERA. Along with Liriano and Santana, the top three Twins pitchers are 19-2 with a 2.30 ERA in the last 30 games. Giving up two home runs isn't great, but against the White Sox, it's nothing to be ashamed off and it helped that both were solo shots. Only Kyle Lohse performed badly last night, as he gave up a two-run home run in the ninth to Brian Anderson. Twins fans should be reminded that not only is Anderson hitting .211/.285/.349 with 6 HRs and 23 RBI, but this isn't the first home run Lohse has given up to him. If memory serves me correctly, he also gave up another one to him in April when the Twins got swept in Chi-Town.

Needless to say, Lohse is looking more and more useless as a pitcher. He needs to be traded in the next week, if only for spare parts. The Twins don't need his salary, bad attitude, or awful pitching around anymore. They already have a good bullpen outside of him and Willie Eyre and the manager is constantly asking for one less pitcher and a backup catcher. Even though it's ridiculous that Gardy is so nervous about the catching situation, it would be great if that led to Lohse's ousting.

Tonight's matchup should prove even more intense, with potential Cy Young candidates Johan Santana and Jose Contreras matching up. My money is on Santana, since Contreras hasn't been particularly great recently.

6 comments:

TheBentKangaroo said...

and Radke's second home run was kind of a joke. Broken bat looper over the fence? He gave up a few balls that were hit much harder, and thanks to Tyner, did no damage.

The more season goes on the less convinced I am that anything was wrong with our pitchers at the beginning of the year. Our defense was so bad that Radke and others were afraid to throw the ball over the plate, and thus weren't pitching their games.

Nick M. said...

That's a good point, but it hasn't change much of anything for Silva, Lohse, or Eyre. Each of them are huge weak spots in an otherwise great staff. Eyre just needs more time at Triple-A it appears. He can't get anyone out. And that has little to do with defense. He just gets hit around each time he pitches.

Silva's issue was never defense. His GB/F ratio was a complete reversal almost of last year's. He has given up way too many flyballs this year and for a sinkerballer, that can only mean bad things. Lohse, for a great number of reasons, needs to be gone. Even if some of his early struggles may not have been entirely his fault.

Dan said...

Trade Deadline: what would you guys do? Pitching, Offense? I know many are saying the Twins should pursue a big bat being a left fielder.

While I think that would be great, I don't think the Twins are going to land either Soriano or Lee, which leaves basically a mediocre crop of veteran bats and fielders, which I don't think would be an upgrade from what we already have that atleast is working for the time being. Hopefully Torri's time off can indeed prove to be a clutch hitter when he comes back.

My contention is that the back end of the rotation gives me an uneasy feeling every single time they take the hill( as I have voiced this before) I know there isn't much out there, but even change for the sake of change may turn out good, so I think maybee TR should acquire a pitcher who can fill the number 4 hole. Why not Redman of KC? He seems to be overlooked some by other names like Maddux, Hernandez, and Armas. He is decent, shouldn't cost too much, is relativley young and could maybee be signed to a one year deal as three spots appear to be open for next year as well.

Just a thought. The Tigers are winning mainly with their arms, that's how the sox won last year, and its basically been the trend for some time. Our bullpen is the best, which can be utilized I think even more if we have one more decent starter out there, and keep skipping the 5 spot when you can. Just my thoughts on the trade deadline.

Anonymous said...

Dan is right. Yesterday there was no number one hero. Radke kept the Twins in the game and the homeruns of Cuddyer, Morneau and Mauer were all crucial. Thing is that the bullpen closed the door again. And it was the second line (Minnesota is a hockey-state) that did the job. How to get it done over and over again when the starters are Baker and Silva? Baker deserves patience but Silva should go (to the minors or to the NL). Some other fellow (Redman??) would ease a lot in this tough wild card race.

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