Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Twins 4, White Sox 3

For the second consecutive game, the long ball did the talking in Chicago last night. After a series opener that featured five home runs, all seven of the runs scored in last night's 4-3 Twins victory came on dingers. While the middle of the Twins' lineup carried the offense on Monday night, it was the bottom of the order coming through big in the second game of the series. Jason Bartlett and Jason "Tiny" Tyner, who combined for six hits including three doubles on Monday night, went a collective 4-for-7 in the 8 and 9 spots in the lineup last night. The big highlight was a three-run homer by Bartlett that broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning. Jason Kubel, hitting in the seventh spot in the order, provided a solo home run in the second inning that initially put the Twins on the board. This is the type of production the Twins never got from the bottom of the order when it consisted of Tony Batista, Juan Castro, and a slumping Rondell White.

Johan Santana gave the Twins seven solid innings, surrending home runs to Jim Thome and Joe Crede but shutting down the Sox lineup outside of that. Santana struck out six and walked none. As usual, Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan did their job and made it a seven-inning game, despite a nerve-wracking ninth inning in which Nathan allowed a couple base-runners on a walk and a hit with one out. Just when it looked like an A.J. Pierzynski rip to right field might tie the game (or worse), Michael Cuddyer made a diving catch for the out and Nathan got Alex Cintron to ground out in the next at-bat to end the game.

It was an intense battle, and a crucial series-clinching victory for the Twins who are virtually assured a loss today with the struggling Carlos Silva taking the mound. Let's not forget that the last time Silva and his opponent, Mark Buehrle, faced off, the Twins put up seven runs in the first inning and still managed to lose thanks to Silva's ineptitude.

Since the All-Star break, the Twins have gained eight games on the slumping White Sox, and now entering today's game tied with the Yankees and just one game behind Chicago in the Wild Card standings. It's only July, so it's clearly too early to be making a big deal of this, but the fact that the Twins are within one game of a playoff spot after their horrendous start is just really amazing.

6 comments:

John said...

This may have been the biggest win of the year so far given the circumstances. The game definitely had a playoff-type vibe. By the bottom of the ninth I was standing on the arm of my couch. Haven't done that for the Twins in quite a while.

Carlos Silva + getaway game = 13-5, White Sox. We're guaranteed to see Willie Eyre at some point today.

Kruk made an interesting point on
BT last night. Right now the Twins are relying on guys who aren't used to playing every day, so you have to wonder when the bottom is going to fall out. I'd have to respond that Tyner is the only one with enough of a track record that you could argue that he's playing above his head. Castillo and White are below their career numbers, and the rest of the guys don't have enough at bats to make a claim either way. So what do you guys think? Are Bartlett, Kubel, Tyner & Punto this good or are they just playing out of their minds right now?

Nick M. said...

Lets remind everyone here that the last time Silva and Buerhle faced off, Silva was so bad, he managed to help a starting pitcher achieve something that hasn't been done in over a hundred years. So, there isn't much to look forward to. The big difference is that these Twins have it in them to have more than one big inning.

Nick M. said...

As to John's question, I think that Bartlett and Kubel's minor league numbers show that these numbers are hardly a fluke. They can hit over .300 and Kubel definitely has power. Bartlett is more of a doubles hitter, but he has the average in Triple-A for two years.

As for Punto? Well, he has been injured so much its been hard to tell. The thing is, he got a lot of help this offseason with his hitting and he seems to have listened. Last year and years before, he struck out way too much and never walked much. This year has been the opposite. Right now, he has a 30/31 K/BB ratio. Last year it was 36/86. So his walk rate isn't significantly higher, but he has cut down on strike outs, focused on contact, and is driving the ball the other way. Advice from guys like Carew and new hitting coach Joe Vavra can't be overlooked.

However, Tyner to me is playing over his head. I always felt he was a AAAA hitter. He's not a bad fourth or fifth outfielder, as he has speed, plays solid defense, and makes some good contact. But trust me, he isn't going to keep up the .400 average. Maybe he is a .300 hitter and if he is, thats great to have on the bench. Otherwise, he's just doing a fantastic job keeping Torii's seat warm.

Nick N. said...

John Kruk is an idiot so I try to ignore anything he says. I don't think you can make the argument that any player is playing over their head based on their past other than Tyner. Bartlett and Kubel are essentially rookies with great minor league track records, so it should come as no surprise that they can hit. I have always thought Punto was capable of being a very solid player... as Mr. Mosvick pointed out he has been injured much of his career and has never really got an extended chance to play regularly. Tyner will probably start to regress to his career lines at some point, but hey, we've been saying that ever since he came up and he still hasn't really cooled down so who knows when that's going to happen.

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