Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Santana Carries Twins to Victory

Where would the Twins be without Johan Santana? Seems like a strange enough question, but just a few weeks ago, it seemed like everyone in the Twins world was ready to take Francisco Liriano over Johan. Santana had a few bad weeks and he didn't look like he had the old dominating magic Liriano was showing. But in last night's victory over the Indians, Santana had everything.

In eight innings pitched Santana walked only one, struck out nine, and gave up a measly three hits. For some reason, with 99 pitches, Ron Gardenhire decided against giving Johan a chance for a shutout. It's a disappointment to me, despite the fact I know they want to save his arm. If he goes over 110-115 pitches, fine, but when he is cruising, it should be his game to go out there and complete. That's the old-school way of baseball and it's one of the old aspects I truly miss.

Regardless, he was his nasty self. Instead of relying on his changeup, throwing it too many times, and getting knocked around some, Johan spotted his fastball and threw a lot more sliders. By doing so, he forced the Indian hitters to guess a lot more and thus, when he threw the changeup, they were not expecting it and could not sit on it. This is a good strategy. It's not like Santana has a weak slider or anything. He can throw that and the fastball and use that changeup in those strikeout situations, without ever giving a hitter the chance to time the change.

Of course, I don't want to come out and immediately suggest Johan can save this club. They are two games back in the Wild Card race behind the White Sox. Santana and Brad Radke are playing those savior roles and there is even a slim chance of seeing Liriano again, but I get nervous in every other game. Carlos Silva, Boof Bonser, and a nervous Matt Garza don't intimidate opposing teams very much at all. That chance, therefore, relies a lot on the offense consistently producing.

Last night, the heroes were Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer. As usual, Cuddyer looked awful with no one in scoring position, hacking away, but suddenly, with runners on and a chance to give the Twins a bigger lead when it was 1-0 in the eighth, Cuddyer hit a two-run single. As for Mauer, a two-out RBI single in the third gave the Twins their first lead. Mauer also stole a base, walked twice, and sits with an ever-more-impressive .443 on-base percentage. Amazing.

Tonight, however, may not be as much of a cakewalk. If Silva is out throwing bricks to the Indians hitters, I can see a Travis Hafner, record-setting grand slam single-handidly breaking hearts. Please make that sinker sink, Carlos.

7 comments:

Nick N. said...

Brilliant outing by Santana, to be sure. I would've liked to see him come away with the complete game shutout, but I'd stop short of complaining about Gardy pulling him out. Let's not forget that Johan has gotten knocked around on several occasions this season when he's gotten into the later innings and around that 100-pitch mark. With Joe Nathan being damn near automatic, why take any risks? We'll need to save Santana's arm as much as we can for the stretch run, so there's no reason to wear that arm out any more than needed for the sake of a statistic.

twins15 said...

Well if there was any doubt about Santana's dominance so far this second half, that should be gone now. 3 hits in 8 shutout innings with 9 Ks against one of the best hitting teams in the league?

Oh yes, Santana is as good as ever.

And agreed with Nick N. He was already at 99 pitches and he had a 4-run lead. A CG SHO is nice, but I'd rather not take unnecessary chances with the best pitcher in baseball.

TheBentKangaroo said...

After the game, Gardy said that Johan had come to him after the 7th inning, told him he was tired, and to have someone warming up in the 8th inning for him.

I'd take him out too.

Nick M. said...

Hmm. Fair enough. I guess I just love seeing complete games and shutouts. I don't really care about the stats, I just love to see it. I truly believe in the ideal of a game being the starting pitcher's to make or break. Perhaps I'd be better off saying this 30 years ago or even 60, but I just like to see it at least once in a while and with only 99 pitches, it seemed possible.

Anonymous said...

Remember, Santana is also battling a fingernail/blister problem. There's just no reason to push him if you don't need to.

This is the kind of game management I like to see from Gardy and Rick Anderson, and a reason why Twins pitching can hold up pown the stretch. (Now, if we could just convince those guys to have a little quicker hook on Silva/Bonser/Baker when it gets into the 5th/6th inning and they've been struggling. Too often they don't come out until after they've given up the big inning, instead of letting a Reyes/Neshek/Crain try and get the team out of the jam)

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