Friday, July 21, 2006

Twins 6, Devil Rays 4

* The Twins are an incredible team this year, at least when they are home. With the victory over the Rays yesterday, they have now won 20 of their last 21 games played at the Dome. That amounts to a 37-11 home record, the best in the bigs. That home success is just the same for Johan Santana, who hasn't lost at the Dome since last August.

* The bad news is that now the Twins have six road games in front of them in two cities that have not been forgiving this year: Chicago and Cleveland. After trading Bob Wickman to the Braves yesterday for a Single-A catcher, the Indians seem to have conceded the season and are looking to the future again. That means it may be a lot less likely that the Twins will get swept in Cleveland as they did earlier this year. However, the series in Chicago is key.

* After the Tigers took the last two games in their series against the Sox and the Twins completed a four-game sweep of the Rays, the Twins now are within four games of a playoff card with the Wild Card race. With a Yankees win, they are in third place for the Wild Card spot, 1 and 1/2 behind the Yanks. Following the three games with Cleveland and the three with Chicago, they come back to the Dome for a weekend series with the Tigers. That means the next nine games are crucial for the Twins. It's their big window of opportunity. If they can continue their most recent winning streak (now at seven straight wins), they could very soon be even with the Sox for a playoff spot. Who'd have thought that back in early June?

* Santana picked up his 11th win yesterday, though he did not pitch a particularly great game against the Rays to get it. He allowed seven hits in six innings while striking out seven. The stat that stood out, and not in a good way, is that he walked four Tampa batters. The outing raised his ERA to 3.00, but the important thing is that he picked up a win. If he can go on his usual second half run, he has a good chance at 20 wins and a Cy Young. Then again, he faces a tough battle against of all people his teammate and student Francisco Liriano. Liriano seems to win every time he goes out, has been more dominating, and has an incredible feel for pitching, especially for a 22-year-old. The way things look, the Cy Young winner has a very good chance of being a Twin, especially if they go to the playoffs, but it's hard to know which one it will be. Right now, though, its definitely Liriano. Being a rookie who is first in ERA (1.94), BAA (.196), and WHIP (.95), plus third in winning percentage and fifth (115) in strikeouts is incredible. Just no one say Dwight Gooden. It's bad luck.

* Of course, Santana wouldn't have won without some good run support. The Twins mustered 11 hits on the day against the Rays staff, garnering two-hit games from Luis Castillo, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Tyner, and Mike Redmond. Cuddyer had two RBI, including a run-scoring double, Mauer went 1-for-3 with an RBI single and a walk, and Tyner continues to hit, with his two hits, an RBI, and now a .370 average. Of course, with no walks and no extra-base hits, whenever he stops getting two hits and an RBI every night, his value to the team will be in high question. A guy like that has to hit a lot, run, and play defense to be valuable over the long haul. Here's to getting Torii back.

* An interesting event just transpired yesterday in baseball. Shea Hillenbrand was released by the Toronto Blue Jays following an argument with manager John Gibbons that nearly lead to a fist-fight. Apparently, Hillenbrand wrote "this is a sinking ship" in the clubhouse and had complained over and over again about not playing, no one celebrating his adoption of a child, and was not very well-liked by Gibbons most of the time. He clearly may be a headcase, but he may be a useful player should the Twins choose to consider picking him up. My contention is that the team could very well move Luis Castillo, who has largely been a disappointment at second base this year, and move Nick Punto to his more natural position at second and give the third base job to Hillenbrand. Of course, that may mean trading Castillo elsewhere, as Toronto already has plenty of middle infielders and GM J.P. Ricciardi already has said that he is looking for a pitcher for the playoff race. That means Toronto could end up being a possible destination for Kyle Lohse. Either way, the Twins could consider giving Hillenbrand a chance. He isn't much defensively, he hardly walks or works counts, but he is hitting .301 with 12 home runs, 15 doubles, and 39 RBI. It would be much better than Terry Ryan throwing another retread player, like Vinny Castillo, on board.

* Tonight, Carlos Silva makes the start in Cleveland against C.C. Sabathia. Last time the Twins faced him, Justin Morneau had a great day against him, going 3-for-4 with a home run. Lets see if they can chase him again.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

People continue to forget that we got swept by them when we had Batista and Castro since they left we have been a completely new and much better.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why bringing a headcase and a clubhouse cancer will help us at all. He is not even a good enough player to even consider it! Clubhouse cancers ruin teams.

Pun said...

Hillenbrand would be a mistake, that's just my opinion.

The home/road difference is staggering. At home, they are 11-1-4 by series. That's right, they have only lost one series at home. On the road, they are 5-10.

They are a different team now than they were at the beginning of the season, but they still lost their last two road series against KC and Tex, two teams that they had beaten on the road earlier in the season.

Of the 26 games that they have won during their 3 big recent winning streaks, 20 have been at home, 6 on the road.

The dome is their big advantage, but this season is going to be hard to win if they can't do it on the road. You're right, the next 9 games mean a lot right now, and will be a big indicator of where the Twins are going.

Anonymous said...

On the road again! We'll see. Some nice box score yesterday. Santana's walks were confusing but there were the Neshek's K's and the Nathan's K's and the not so brilliant (one)line(r) of Rincon: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 B, 1 SO, 1 HR. What about the firts day of the most important next ten: will Carlos show silver or scrap. Somehow I feel an outstanding Silva performance will be a big spark. But I am not so sure about that.

Nick N. said...

They are a different team now than they were at the beginning of the season, but they still lost their last two road series against KC and Tex, two teams that they had beaten on the road earlier in the season.

That's a great point Pun, and that's why I am wary of the Twins on the road even if they are a different team now than they were when they got beat up in Cleveland and Chicago early in the season. They have a lot to prove in these next six games.

Somehow I feel an outstanding Silva performance will be a big spark.

Beware... Silva is 1-5 with a 9.34 ERA on the road this year.

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