Friday, August 25, 2006

Boof Gets it Right

After Matt Garza's fine performance on Wednesday night, Boof Bonser had to follow it up well, right? Well, of course, he too pitched a quality start, giving the Twins 6 2/3 innings while allowing seven hits and two runs on a two-run homer from Ramon Hernandez. Bonser struck out four and walked one.

Now, no one is going to say that a 3-4 record or 5.18 or 1.45 WHIP are great, but in his last three starts, Boof has at least given the Twins a good chance to win. Three runs in five innings or two in 6 2/3 is fine when you have such a great bullpen and an offense that has the ability to put up a few runs.

With that in mind, it certainly didn't hurt that the offense came alive against Kris Benson and the Baltimore staff that is only "better" than the Kansas City tragedy of a pitching staff. The Twins put up eleven runs, with their 3-6 hitters going an incredible 10 for 16 with all 11 RBI, 5 extra-base hits (two Mauer doubles, a Cuddyer triple, a Morneau home run, and a Hunter home run), and scored five runs along the way.

Cuddyer had the best night, going 4 for 4 with 4 RBI, a two-run triple, and raised his average to .276 along the way. After a great last week, Cuddyer has had 16 RBI in August and now is hitting .276/.361/.510 on the year with 18 HR and 86 RBI. Not too shabby seems like an understatement and of course, with a 4 for 4 night, he ended his small strikeout streak.

Having a outfielder driving in runs and hitting with this authority is another commodity the Twins seemed have missed since 1987 (I don't know that Mardy Cordova really counts, since he didn't do that much after his rookie campaign). He may finish with around 25 home runs and 110 RBI. Having two 100 plus RBI is great and it should be remember that our 3-4-5 guys currently have 60 home runs between them and 269 RBI.

Other than the middle of the order, table setters Luis Castillo and Nick Punto went 3 for 5 and 2 for 5 respectively. Castillo has been hot in August, batting .333 but with only five walks. Good thing that the most of the lineup, including Hunter and Castillo, is starting to heat up more with the Chicago series starting today. Hunter has hit four home runs in his last six games, giving him a .274/.346/.464 line on the year.

The slugging percentage isn't anything amazing, but at least the OPS is above .800 and the defense is cleaning up after a scary week since his return. Hunter is, as every Twins fan knows by know, a very streaky player and that can be a headache, but at least he's heating up at the right time. If he gets a few timely home runs in this weekend series, that could be the turning point on the year. Needless to say, we expect Mauer and Morneau to do great, but big contributions from Torii and Cuddy will change everything.

With Brad Radke on the hill tonight, things look a little brighter. Brad is 3-1 with a 1.67 in August and 5-2 with a 2.70 ERA since the break. Radke did pick up the loss in last weekend's series, getting hurt by poor Minnesota defense, but he pitched well and should do so again. Its on this note that I'd like to leave this point.

Its worth reminding Twins fans that we only have so much time left to watch this guy pitch and we should all remember just how great and wonderful the experience has been. Brad was one of the few reasons to pay attention to the Twins during the depressing years in the late 90s and he's been a great reason to pay attention in the competitive last five years.

His professional demeanor, compassion, intergrity, control, and beautiful, flawless delivery are all aspects of Radke I admire. If there is one guy in Minnesota who deserves a world championship, its Brad. I realize that KG is the popular choice, but he's a $25 million star. Brad is a guy who took less money to stick around twice and has never acted the way overpaid, selfish stars act today. He is a team player and he's given it all this year.

I know if the Twins make it to the playoffs, he'll pitch great. Like another past pitching star in Minnesota (Bert), Brad has never gotten the national attention he deserved, but he'll always be regarded well in Minnesota. Here's to another great start Brad and a great career.