Instead, Radke came out and pitched an outstanding game. His peripherals were not overly impressive (9 H, 1 BB, 2K over 7 IP) but the results were: he held the Tigers scoreless outside of a two-run second inning and gave the Twins' offense the chance to scrape together four unanswered runs and pick up their first victory in eight tries this year at Comerica Park.
It's hard not to have a lot of respect for Brad Radke. He struggled down the stretch quite a bit last year, but not once did I ever see him coming up with excuses. Not until after the season was it revealed that Radke was pitching through excruciating pain in his right shoulder. This year, I've heard reports that Radke again is pitching with considerable pain in that shoulder, but those reports haven't come from Brad; I've never seen him blame a bad outing on an injury.
Going into the 2005 season, many baseball analysts felt that the Twins' rotation sported the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball, with Radke and Johan Santana both coming off excellent 2004 campaigns. With Francisco Liriano gone and Carlos Silva struggling, the pressure will be on the Radke/Santana duo to carry the Twins' rotation through the rest of the season. If the Twins want to have any hope of making the post-season (and succeeding once they get there), Radke will have to be consistent and Santana will have to dominate. Radke did his part last night, and if Santana can do the same tonight and push the Twins to a series victory in Detroit, I think there will be some reason for optimism.
Meanwhile, the rotation continues to transform around those two. Liriano is headed for the 15-day disabled list, while phenom prospect Matt Garza has finally been called up and will likely start against Toronto on Friday night.
In a way, I feel sorry for Garza because I think the way Liriano performed this season is going to cause a lot of fans to set unrealistic expectations. I have talked to a number of Twins fans the past couple nights who have expressed a sentiment similar to, "Well as long as Garza comes up and pitches like Liriano, we should be fine." I am a big Garza fan, he has been dominant in the minors and I think he's going to be a very good major league pitcher over the course of his career, but if you expect him to come up and post a sub-2 ERA and strike out hitters like Francisco was, you're probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Liriano was having an incredible and unprecedented season, and it's hard to imagine Garza duplicating that production even with his scorching fastball.
With all that said, I'm excited to see the kid pitch. Whether we like it or not, his success is going to be crucial to the Twins' post-season chances. It's a lot of pressure for a 22-year-old in his first full season of professional baseball, but unfortunately that's just the way it has come to be.
"It's one of the best things that's ever happened to me," Garza said of his latest promotion. "I just don't want to have to do it again. I want to stay and not go anywhere."Here's hoping you do stay. Welcome to the big leagues Matt.