Saturday, August 05, 2006

Twins 8, Royals 5

Here's how I imagine it went down:

The ninth inning roles around, and a few players in the Twins' dugout look up at the scoreboard and realize that they are on the verge of losing to the Kansas City Royals. The Twins' leadoff hitters in the ninth, Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer, think to themselves, "Hold on a second... this is the Royals." Mauer and Cuddyer promptly deliver back-to-back solo homers to tie the game.

Then, in the tenth inning, they realized they couldn't wait another six innings before scoring again, so once again, after a Jason Bartlett single and walks to Mauer (intentional) and Cuddyer, Bartlett scored on a wild pitch, Morneau was intentionally walked for his fourth free pass of the game, Torii Hunter gave the Twins some cushion with a two-run single before Joe Nathan easily closed the door on the Royals' offense for a save and a Twins win.

Some notes on last night's game:

* It's the second half, and Johan Santana is not dominating, which is an unusual thing to see. After a great first half, Santana has looked very human since the All-Star break, and last night's game was no different. After three innings, Johan had already struck out six Royals hitters and the Twins had already handed him a 3-0 lead. It looked like Santana was in position to easily cruise to his 13th victory of the season.

Instead, the Royals got to Santana in the bottom of the fourth as he gave up four runs on four singles and a couple of walks, giving Kansas City the lead. Santana settled down after that inning, setting the Royals down 1-2-3 in both the fifth and sixth innings before leaving the game, but the damage was done. Santana's recent control problems are distressing. He never issued more than three walks in a game prior to the All-Star break, but since then he has done it twice in five starts, and he issued three last night. After posting an incredible 1.05 ERA in June, Santana's ERA was 4.74 in July and now he's stumbled out of the gates in August. Here's hoping Johan can transform back into the dominant force he has been in the second halves of the last two seasons, because the Twins need him more than ever right now.

* Of course, the Twins' offense didn't help Santana out much. Despite giving up four runs to the inferior Royals lineup, Johan should have easily gotten the win, but the Twins left the bases loaded three times. The Twins' 2006 offense is starting to look a lot like the 2005 offense, stranding numerous runners on base with bad at-bats and frustrating double-plays.

* Here are a couple good examples of why that is happening:

In the fifth inning, Royals starter Mark Redman was struggling. After giving up a double to Nick Punto, Redman issued walks to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau (in the game, the Royals pitchers walked 12 Twins hitters total) to load the bases with two outs. Redman had five walks at that point, so obviously he was having a tough time with his control. Up comes Torii Hunter, who swings at the first pitch and grounds out to the shortstop. Hunter's tendency to help out a struggling pitcher with his ugly at-bats is not exactly the sign of a veteran leader.

Jason Tyner would do the exact same thing two innings later. The Royals loaded the bases with a couple of walks, and Tyner came up and swung at the first pitch to ground into an inning-ending double play. You'd think that guys like Tyner and Hunter who have been playing baseball for so long would be a little smarter than that, but apparently not.

* Morneau has been doing a lot of great things this year, and his three-run double with two outs in the third inning last night was huge. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of his night, in my mind, was his ability to lay off tough pitches and draw walks against two left-handed pitchers. Prior to last night's game, Morneau had drawn just six walks against southpaws, and in 2005 he drew just eight all season. To see him do it twice in one game was extremely pleasant. Most enjoyable was the second, against reliever Jimmy Gobble, which came in an at-bat in which he quickly fell behind 0-2.

* It seems that Boston's Jon Papelbon might win the AL Rookie of the Year award by default this year. His two main competitors for the honor, Francisco Liriano and Justin Verlander, are both battling arm injuries. Liriano missed his last start due to a sore forearm (that is hopefully nothing more serious than that), and now Verlander will miss his next start because of "arm fatigue," which is probably not a good sign for the Tigers.

* I'll end this post on a good note. Matt Garza made his fifth start for the Rochester Red Wings last night and delivered seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and one walk while striking out 11 as the Red Wings won 8-0. Garza now has a 1.85 ERA in five starts at the Triple-A level, along with 33 strikeouts and just 7 walks. But yeah, I'm sure Mike Smith has a better chance for success in the big leagues right now.

9 comments:

danielinamerica said...

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Anonymous said...

Good stuff again. Remarkable that Redman threw 101 pitches, only 50 for strikes. The Twins however managed to get only once scoring hit against him.

Nick N. said...

Yeah the Twins really struggled to take advantage of Redman's control problems. It was pretty frustrating, but it's good to see that they eventually came around.

SBG said...

I'm not sure, but I'm thinking that homerun by Cuddyer was launched by a cannon. I've rarely seen a ball hit that hard.

Nick N. said...

SBG, it certainly didn't look like a home run right off the bat. Looked like a nice little double into the gap, but he hit it so hard that it carried right over the fence. Just goes to show you what happens when a guy with good bat speed makes solid contact on a 97 MPH fastball.

BD57 said...

I can't say I've studied it, but Santana really seems to be off balance a lot out there lately - he's falling off hard toward 3rd base more often than not.

twins15 said...

I was going to comment as well about the Twins swinging at the first pitch after drawing a walk... unbelievably frustrating, especially when it happened multiple times in one inning (in the 5th).

Oh well, Twins now with 3 straight wins against KC, hopefully they can complete the deal Sunday.

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