Thursday, September 21, 2006

Bonser Buries Boston

I've really come to enjoy watching Boof Bonser pitch. He was rough around the edges when he first came up in May, but last night's start in Boston provides a great example of how far he's come. Bonser attacked hitters, throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count. He mixed up his pitches and changed speeds masterfully. Bonser showed a level of poise and confidence that is highly uncommon for a 24-year-old rookie making his first start in legendary Fenway Park.

The result was Bonser's sixth victory of the season. He delivered seven innings of two-run ball, allowing seven hits while striking out five and walking none. He was efficient, working quickly and needing only 81 pitches to complete the seven innings of work. Boof did allow a solo home run to David Ortiz, but it was the first he's given up in three starts. In fact, while giving up home runs was at one point a major problem for Bonser (he allowed seven in his first four starts), he's cut down considerably as of late. In his past five starts, he has allowed only two.

Bonser seems to be taking after Mr. Santana, putting together a big second half and pushing the team to victory in seemingly each of his starts. The Twins have now won six of the last seven games Bonser has started, and he seems to be improving each time out. While his ERA, which now stands at 4.36, might not be anything spectacular, it's solid and also pretty impressive when you consider that it was at 5.67 on August 3.

Of course, Bonser wouldn't have been able to pick up the W if not for another late explosion from the offense. The Twins hitters made Red Sox starter Curt Schilling work hard, forcing him to throw 104 pitches over five innings; however, they were unable to capitalize and scored only one run against him. Getting Schilling out of the game early was crucial though, as it allowed the Twins to get plenty of at-bats against Boston's weak bullpen. They jumped on Craig Hansen in the eighth, knocking him around for four runs on three hits and a walk. That put the Twins on top 5-2, and they added three more runs against Bryan Corey in the ninth to seal the deal.

Torii Hunter initiated the scoring spree with a three-run shot over the Green Monster in the eighth. Hunter has been absolutely insane over the last month, with 13 home runs and 30 RBI in his last 31 games, and he has watched his line for the season shoot up to a very respectable .275/.336/.483 with 28 HR and 90 RBI. Hunter has always been an extremely streaky player, but he's on perhaps the biggest hot streak of his career right now, and it's coming at a crucial time for the Twins as they look to lock up a playoff spot and overtake the Tigers in the AL Central. Of course, he's still as impatient as ever at the plate (two walks in 77 plate appearances this month), but right now I'm more than willing to look past that and embrace the incredible power surge he's having. If Torii can carry this hot streak into the playoffs, the Twins become a much more dangerous team with legitimate power threats 4-6 in the order.

With the Tigers defeating the White Sox, the Twins remain a half-game back in the division, but their lead in the wild-card standings increases to 5.5 games. That's a huge lead with only 11 games remaining (10 for Chicago), and with the way these teams are playing it is starting to look increasingly likely that the White Sox will have been eliminated from playoff contention by the time they roll into the Metrodome for the final series of the season. That would be a shame for me, since I have tickets to that series and was looking forward to some playoff-type baseball, but it would be great for the Twins as it would potentially allow them to rest up their starters in preparation for the ALDS (assuming that they're not still neck and neck with Detroit in the division race).

As it stands, the Twins are now 5-0 against the Red Sox this year and tonight they send out Johan Santana as they look to complete a season sweep. Taking the hill for Boston will be Josh Beckett. The Red Sox can't be feeling too good about giving up stud prospects Anibal Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez to acquire Beckett in the off-season. He has posted a 5.02 ERA for Boston while Ramirez and Sanchez have both pieced together phenomenal rookie seasons for the Marlins. Surprisingly, the oft-injured Beckett has remained healthy all season and he's set career highs in games started and innings pitched, but he simply hasn't been as effective as in the past. His strikeout rate is down and his walk rate is up. Let's see if the Twins can take advantage of this lop-sided pitching matchup and give the Red Sox the dagger to the heart.

8 comments:

MNPundit said...

We are 2 games behind the Yankees.... I saw we push hard, hope they stall a bit after the high of winning the division and we take Homefield for the playoffs!

Shoot for the Moon!

Nick N. said...

You're right. Who would've thought with that horrendous start that the Twins would be within two games of the league's best record with 10 games left?

Unbelievable.

SBG said...

Good write up. Boof has really turned some heads with his second half. I don't think he's a top of the rotation guy, but he looks like a solid middle of the rotation guy. I thought he threw he breaking ball quite effectively last night.

Nick M. said...

Yeah SBG going to agree with you there. But there is nothing wrong with that. With Liriano and Garza, we already have two potential top-of-the-rotation guys behind Santana. (I say Liriano not because he hasn't proven himself to be a very good pitcher, but because no one can predict injuries and top of the rotation guys shouldn't be injured all the time) Bonser is on the right track, so all we need now is for Baker to do the same or maybe Perkins or Slowey.

You'll notice I don't mention Silva, but that is because I still don't trust his stuff. I have no reason yet to believe he is "back to form" because I'm not sure he even had anything too special and because 2005 was a fluke. Guys don't have season with that little amount of walks very often and Silva isn't going to repeat that feat.

Nick M. said...

http://citypages.com/databank/27/1346/article14727.asp?page=2

I highly suggest everyone looks at this article. Dayn Perry of FoxSports.com linked it in an article on the As and Twins, in which he extolled the "blended philosophy" of Twins GM Terry Ryan.

In the article, an interview with Ryan, Ryan says that indeed values OBP and does statistical evaluations on everyone. I'm not sure how to read into this, since he did after all sign Tony Batista, but it is interesting.

Nick N. said...

I don't really trust Silva's stuff either, but I think he can be a decent #5 starter, which would be his role next year if Liriano comes back and the Twins go Santana/Garza/Liriano/Bonser/Silva.

That's a pretty nice rotation, in my mind.

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