As they typically have when on the road this year, the Twins played very poorly in Kansas City for the past three days. On Monday night they were gifted a victory on some late wild pitches by the Royals, and on the past two nights they were soundly beaten by the worst team in the American League. The Twins' batters went down in bunches like dominos and hit into numerous rally-killing double plays while the pitchers simply could not get outs when they needed to. Brad Radke was awful last night. While he gave up only three runs, he gave up way too many hits against a bad lineup. Juan Rincon had one of his signature brutal relief outings, allowing the go-ahead running run on a wild pitch and then sealing the Royals' victory by allowing a two-run double to the light-hitting John Buck. Rincon is a great pitcher most of the time, as his numbers will attest, but when he sucks he gives up the runs in bunches.
It's hard to be critical of a Twins team that just won 20 of 21 ballgames, but to be outplayed to this extent by the league's worst team over three games is inexcusable. The loss ends a streak of seven consecutive series victories. Things don't get much easier now, as the Twins head into Texas for a three-game series against the Rangers in their last series before the All-Star break. On a positive note, the Twins did take two of three in their last series in Texas back in early May, and the Rangers have not played particularly well as of late. It would be nice if the Twins could enter the break on a positive note, but if they take the same type of punchless play into Texas that they brought into Kansas City, that won't be happening.
Anyway, I have a bunch of stuff I'd like to touch on today, so I'll do it bulletpoint style:
* In a move that was not particularly surprising to me, the Twins optioned Boof Bonser to Triple-A yesterday. The Twins seem to be jumping the gun a bit on this one. Granted, Bonser's inability to throw strikes in the Twins' loss to Kansas City on Tuesday night was maddening, but his last start prior to that was very good (6.1 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 K, 0 BB). I imagine it must have been tricky for Bonser to get into any kind of groove considering he was only pitching about once every ten days, since Ron Gardenhire was frequently skipping his spot in the rotation. It is a tricky situation, because while you would like to see a young guy like Bonser getting regular starts in order to settle in, I can't argue with the logic of getting as many starts as possible for Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano.
Sending Bonser down might make sense if the Twins were doing it in order to give, say, Scott Baker (who currently has a 2.70 ERA in Rochester) another chance, but all indications are that the Twins will call up a reliever and insert Kyle Lohse back into the starting rotation. I'm not going to sugarcoat this; if the Twins actually do that, it is pure idiocy. Apparently, four unspectacular innings against the Royals in Tuesday night's game was enough to convince the Twins that Lohse is ready to start again despite the fact that he has an 8.92 ERA as a starter this year and last month posted a 6.48 ERA in 8 and 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. Terry Ryan made a big mistake by not trading Lohse when the time was ripe during the past offseason and now he continues to compound that mistake by giving Lohse more chances to lose games for this ballclub while forcing players like Baker and Bonser who might actually factor into the club's future to toil away in the minors.
Okay, I'm done with that rant.
* ... But now I have to start another one. The balloting for the 32nd and final spot on the All-Star rosters ends at 5 o'clock this evening. As I write this, Liriano is leading the AL balloting and, thanks to a nice push from the national media, I'm optimistic that he will make the team. Nonetheless, it is fairly ridiculous that he was not initially selected and if he does make the team, it will be at the expense of Travis Hafner and his phenomenal .318/.460/.655 line. Hafner has been quite possibly the best hitter in the American League for the past 2 and a half years and he still has not appeared in an All-Star game.
I have heard some people say that because the voting for the All-Star Game and for the postseason awards is so flawed, they've just stopped caring about them at all. I don't see how any baseball fan can say that. Let's not forget that after these players retire and when they are being considered for the Hall of Fame, one of the main things people will look at is what awards they won over the course of their career. How many times was this guy an All-Star? How many Cy Youngs or MVP awards did he win? As much as we might hate the ridiculous voting for these honors, acting like they don't exist isn't going to do much.
* Rick Reed and Tom Prince were teammates with the Twins in 2002 and 2003, and now they have become the two most recent additions to the Buffalo Bisons Hall of Fame. While we were watching Prince serve limited duty at backup catcher and Reed post a 5.07 ERA in 2003, who would have known we were watching a couple of future Hall of Famers?
* Matt Garza has been very good outside of a few rocky starts since being called up to Double-A, and he pieced together another brilliant outing against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats yesterday, striking out nine over eight scoreless innings. Between Single-A and Double-A this year, Garza is now 11-3 with a 2.04 ERA and a 121/25 strikeout-to-walk ratio.