Saturday, April 28, 2007

Mauer Strikes Back

Maybe Joe Mauer wasn't happy with being held out of the lineup. Maybe he knew that the offense needed a swift kick in the butt. Whatever the case, Mauer delivered the game-winning two-run single last night off hard-throwing reliever Joel Zumaya. Michael Cuddyer said that when Mauer came up, second baseman Placido Polanco remarked, "Oh God, that guy's up."

The Twins surprised everyone by coming back from a 3-1 deficit against Zumaya. Looking at Zumaya's numbers so far, however, it isn't as surprising as last August's three-run home run by Justin Morneau off Zumaya in Detroit. Including last night, Zumaya has given up six runs in his last 14 innings. He's also shown some pretty bad control this year, walking nine in those 14 innings as well as four on Wednesday outing against the White Sox. He's also a guy who was very hard to hit last year (.187 OBA) and had an amazing ERA of 1.94.

Mauer's wasn't the only impressive hit though. Luis Rodriguez somehow managed to get a sacrifice bunt down on Zumaya's triple-digit fastball to move over Jason Bartlett and Nick Punto. Mike Redmond, misplaced in the third spot, managed a well-struck two-run single to tie the game. And Michael Cuddyer followed with a blast off the left-field wall for a double.

All this offensive output did take a while. The Twins made fans suffer through six innings of offensive ineptitude before Morneau homered off of starter Nate Robertson. (Problems with another soft-tossing lefty? Its getting a little annoying.) With that in mind, obviously fans have to hope that the eighth-inning Twins will show up this afternoon against the hard-throwing 2006 Rookie of the Year Justin Verlander.

However, with all the talk of offense, I have to mention that the Twins received another quality start from Ramon Ortiz. Ortiz only allowed two runs and five hits in six innings, though he did walk four batters. That gives him a 2.57 ERA so far. Ortiz was another part of a great effort by the Twins pitching staff, as the bullpen chipped in with three scoreless innings while Joe Nathan closed the door for his seventh save. With this year's other pitching surprise -- Carlos Silva -- on the mound today, let's hope for a similar effort. The Twins will undoubtedly need it.