Sunday, September 24, 2006

Magic Number at Three

After a another bad loss and a terrible pitching outing from Carlos Silva on Friday, the Twins needed to get back some momentum going into their likely trip to the playoffs. Torii Hunter and an error after a strikeout helped the Twins to another key victory.

Scott Baker, who started for the Twins, didn't give the Twins an outing to be excited about at all. He only managed to get through 3 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits and four runs (three earned), while only getting one strikeout. As usual, the Twins bullpen came and shut 'em down.

Matt Guerrier (who gave up one run, but managed to get the win), Glen Perkins, Pat Neshek, Dennys Reyes, Jesse Crain, and Joe Nathan went 5 1/3 innings giving up five hits and striking out three, with only Guerrier walking two men. Joe Nathan came in for a scoreless ninth and picked up his 34th save of the year. With the save numbers down and after becoming such a sure-thing, many have seemed to forget about Nathan having a career year.

His ERA (1.71) isn't as good as his 2004 ERA (1.62), but he has been incredibly unhittable with impeccable control. He has given up only 35 hits in 63 1/3 innings (.158 BAA), with 87 strikeouts and 13 walks. That leads to an incredible 0.76 WHIP, a 12.36 K/9 rate, and a 6.69 K/BB ratio. Those are all career-highs and all jaw-dropping numbers.

Hitting-wise, Hunter was once again at the forefront. In the fifth inning, with the game tied at 4-4, Torii came up with two outs and Michael Cuddyer on first before launching an Erik Bedard pitch into the bleachers. Along with a Cuddyer strikeout in the third that led to three runs on a Ramon Hernandez throwing error and a Justin Morneau single that followed, the Twins managed to grab one more win closer to the playoffs.

The RBI was Morneau's 126th, which ties him for second on the all-time Twins RBI list with Harmon Killebrew, who holds the record of 140 from his 1969 MVP season. Of course, as we all know, Morneau is only 25 and could have any number of 140+ RBI years ahead of him. The only real disappointment of the game is that the 19 hits the Twins had only amounted to eight runs, two being unearned.

The 10 men the Twins left on base is a sign of their continued offensive struggles of late still coming out in a victory. If anything, the best sign out of this is Rondell White's 4-for-4 night that has brought his season average to .244.

After the struggles of Baker and Silva in the last two games, let's hope that Matt Garza, who is on the hill today against fellow rookie starter Adam Loewen, has a much better game and continues the progress he has made of late, mainly with his good effort against Boston on Tuesday.