Monday, September 18, 2006

Baker Steps Up

Scott Baker has had quite the interesting year. Against the New York Yankees and their powerful offense, he is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and .128 BAA. He also had two quality starts against the meager offenses of the Royals and Devil Rays. Against all other opponents, he came into yesterday's start with a 2-7 record and a 7.84 ERA.

Baker's start yesterday came against the Indians, against whom he was previously 0-2 on the season, having allowed 18 hits and 9 runs in 9 2/3 innings. Not exactly pretty. Yesterday, however, his style seemed to revert, looking like the Yanks were in the opposing dugout.

Baker pieced together a quality start, going six innings, allowing one run on six hits, while striking out three and walking two. The big stat that stands out is the four double plays that Baker got the Indians offense to hit into. That certainly shows that Baker is getting his fastball down in the zone and not elevating it in key situations. Though the ERA is still alarming at 6.33, one good start goes a long way. Right now, the situation for the Twins feels like Cy Young, Carlos Silva, and the Young Guns. However, after this weekend, things might look a little better.

Though Cleveland is without should-be MVP candidate Travis Hafner, they are still a potent offense to be reckoned with. Outside of Santana, Minnesota's other three starters (Boof, Silva, Baker) allowed only five total runs in the 18 2/3 innings they pitched. With road series against Boston and Baltimore ahead, knowing that the Twins may be able to rely on some pitchers outside of Santana is huge.

If anything, this is a momentum-builder for the playoffs. The main issue right now and the feeling in many fans, including myself, is that the Twins will probably make it there, but outside of Game 1 and 5, how are the Twins going to win with no Liriano and possibly no Radke? The answer is that the Twins young players continue to surprise and excite. Bonser, Silva, Baker, and Garza give the Twins options and ones that are currently working. This team may after all have a chance in the playoffs, even without a great deal of pitching experience.

However, Twins fans should also thank the terrible Indians defense for the win yesterday. With three errors and two unearned runs, it certainly helped out the offense along with starter Paul Byrd's lack of control. Minnesota's big guns (Cuddyer, Morneau) didn't do much at all, but Torii Hunter, Phil Nevin (he's still alive!), Jason Tyner and Nick Punto managed to come up with big hits following the opportunities Cleveland gave them.

Today is the last off day of the season, with a series at Fenway beginning tomorrow.