Friday, April 13, 2007

Morneau Comes Up a Hero Again

Before talking about the game and the heroics of Justin Morneau and Carlos Silva, I would like to mention that Torii Hunter has once again made a fool out of himself in public. In an interview on ESPN news following the game, Hunter said that there is "very little chance" of him re-signing and laughed about how the only way to keep him around would be if the Twins paid him what he needs.

Hunter said he wanted to be "politically correct" and not be a "distraction" during the season, but this is not a good way to start things. It is apparent that the Twins likely won't keep Hunter, but that's no reason for him to go off and say such things.

As for the game, a few things obviously stand out. For one, there was an unbelievably awful base-running error by two Devil Rays in the ninth that prevented them from taking the lead, as Ben Zobrist was keep at third on a Carl Crawford smash into the corner. However, Crawford thought he had a triple and run all the way to third. Seeing Crawford coming for the same base, Zobrist started to go home before getting caught in a run-down by Joe Mauer off a Luis Castillo throw. After Mauer tagged Zobrist out, he noticed that Crawford now had inexplicably decided to run back to second as Zobrist went home and Mauer threw Crawford out. It was so crazy that I couldn't stop laughing. But after laughing for minutes, one thing that was clear: the Twins got pretty lucky.

They didn't blow their opportunity and in the bottom of the ninth, when Morneau lead off with the score tied at 2-2. With a Brian Strokes offering right over the outer half of the plate, Morneau went with the pitch and drove a game-winning home run just into the arms of awaiting Twins fans in the Home Run Porch in left field. As huge as Morneau's blast was, it was hard to forget the other hero of the game, Carlos Silva.

Silva lasted 6 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits and no runs while striking out four and walking two. Having given up only the one run in 11 2/3 innings so far, Silva currently boasts a 0.77 ERA. Hard to think that through the first two weeks of the season, Ramon Ortiz and Silva would be boasting the best starter ERAs so far, but they are. And such a pleasant surprise is surely welcome. But, as with Ortiz, it has to be cautioned that Silva certainly isn't going to be better than Santana this year. Still, if he can continue to show a solid change-up and a good sinker, he certainly can have a good year and prove most of the Twins blogosphere (including us) wrong.

The other big hit came from Michael Cuddyer, who hit a two-run blast in the fourth to give the Twins the lead. So far, Cuddyer has looked impressive, hitting .364 with 6 RBI. Likewise, after two hits last night, Jason Kubel is now hitting .333 and may be hitting his stride. Kubel was mentioned as a breakout candidate for this season and it would be a safe bet to say that keeping him in the lineup is a good idea.

As for negatives, I will continue to point out that the "piranhas" are looking pathetic this year, as the two who started, Castillo and Nick Punto, went a combined 0-for-8 last night. So far this year, the piranhas (including Jason Tyner and Jason Bartlett) have gone a combined 17-for-101, or a horrendous .168 average. Horrendous because the name piranha implies that none of these guys have much power to speak of and are basically singles hitters. So, if they aren't hitting near .300, they aren't very useful. I won't rally too much against Castillo, since he will come around, and I think that Bartlett will as well, but Tyner already is a liability and Punto could become one at the plate again.

Lastly, Juan Rincon showed last night that he may not be over his problems that began at the end of last year, as he got knocked around in the eight inning and gave up the two runs Tampa needed to tie the game. Rincon was only saved by Pat Neshek, who came in and got the last two outs on strikeouts. Neshek should be in the set-up role regardless, as at this point he is clearly more dominant than Rincon.

Today, we will look forward to the battle of lefty ace starters between Johan Santana and Scott Kazmir. Should be good fun!

21 comments:

TheBentKangaroo said...

When you need to strand
a runner on third
Who ya gonna call?
Pat Neshek!

When a strikeout is
the only thing that works
Who ya gonna call?
Pat Neshek!

Nick M. said...

As I said, the game had many hereos and Neshek was certainly one of them. And he is much of the time. Lets just all remember that he shouldn't have to come on with a runner on third and save the day. If he started the inning, I'm betting we probably wouldn't be in such a situation.

WinTwins57 said...

I agree, we need to take advantage of the fact that Neshek is in a perfect position to make batters look extremely silly right now. I always worry when pitchers are so dominant that the day will come when the batters will "figure them out" and they will suddenly not be as dominant. We need to use him now and the set-up role is EXACTLY where he should be...

TheBentKangaroo said...

I wouldn't have thrown out Rincon just because of what happened with his family. But the platoon was there; Rincon faced a lot of lefties before he got pulled. But somehow, I doubt that was Gardy's reasoning for putting Rincon in.

John said...

The pirantas are indeed struggling. I don't know why Gardy hasn't put Lew Ford in the lineup yet. Seriously, one of the Twins' best hitters hasn't even seen the field this year. What's up with that?

Nick M. said...

John, I have to assume that is a sarcastic comment, since Ford is on the DL and, although he mostly qualitifies as a piranha, he hasn't hit .300 since his first year and never will again. Ford is an overrated fifth outfielder who should be happy to warm a spot on the bench.

demetri said...

I admit, I was worried about Silva's performance. It seems like he was getting a lot of his outs on fly balls. Isn't this usually a bad sign for a sinker ball pitcher? Is there anything you can say to ease my mind?

John said...

Sorry, Nick, couldn't resist after the rant yesterday. Seriously, though, how come Radke isn't in the rotation anymore? And when did Juan Berenguer start pitching left handed?

Corey Ettinger said...

Demeteri...

Silva registered 9 outs via GBO and 8 via FBO. Those numbers include fielders choice ground balls, of which there were two. Indicating his sinker was good, if not great. I don't think he really had it going yesterday like he did in Chicago when his ball was diving into the dirt, but his success against a tougher lineup without his best stuff may be even more encouraging. Certainly if he had pitched like that against the Yankees its a near certain shelling but I don't think he pitched terribly.

Nick M. said...

Also, I'd keep in mind that Silva is no longer just throwing a sinker. He's "experimenting" with the new change-up and throwing more breaking balls as well, both pitches that will undoubtedly lead to more flyball outs. It may not be perfectly sound, but I think that's an observation i've picked up.

However, I'm not sure that it means he'll continue to be good. It depends on how he adapts when hitters pick up and time his change and start creaming it.

Corey Ettinger said...

Suddenly everyone wants to be Johan Santana... imagine that. BTW, that curve has looked good.

Corey Ettinger said...

Mr. Mosvick, do you think his new pitches could be leading to his unusually high walk rate?

Nick M. said...

Corey, I think that is a possibility, since watching last night, a lot of those pitches seemed to float out of the zone. Of course, if he is more effective but walks more, I won't really care all that much. But I would agree, since the one pitch he was always getting over the plate and, subsequently, too much of the plate was the sinker.

Nick M. said...

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2836252

If Jake Westbrook is a $11 million pitcher, this market is just going up more or remaning high. Then again, we can't forget that Gil Meche is getting the same. Clearly, $11 million/year is standard for middle of the order or mediocre pitchers.

Nick N. said...

I always worry when pitchers are so dominant that the day will come when the batters will "figure them out" and they will suddenly not be as dominant.

Sure seems to have happened with Rincon.

Nick M. said...

Well, as I recall, Juan stopped taking those B12 vitamins. Bad strategy.

Ray Felix, III said...

You say you're not worried about Castillo or Bartlett, but that Punto and Tyner are (or could become) liabilities.

I would say Tyner has had very limited opportunities to do any damage (he only has 11 AB) you may as well focus on Redmond and Rondell who both have lower BA (1-9, .111) than Tyner (.182) in a similar # of ABs. Hopefully he remains on the bench as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement.

As for Punto, he's actually drawn some walks (4) and shown some propensity for the extra base hit (3 2B) which at least begins to make up for his miniscule BA.

Your main point that the bottom/top of the order has underperformed this year can't be argued, and I'm no more satisfied with their production thus far than you are. Bartlett has been atrocious this year and is a big reason behind that 17-101. You can't use his numbers to create the evidence to damn other players while he gets a free pass because you think he'll come around.

Nick M. said...

Hmm I don't know. Punto may have 3 doubles and 4 walks, but he has overall been terrible offensively. Bartlett has been worse, but Punto really hasn't been better. Sure Tyner has had limited at-bats, but he was one of the piranhas from last year, so I included him. Only Castillo has been decent so far.

My point is simply that we need a lot more from the so-called "piranhas." For them to contribute, they need to get on base, hit around .300, and steal some bases.

Nick N. said...

Bartlett has been worse, but Punto really hasn't been better.

I'm sorry Nick, but that might be the dumbest sentence I've ever read.

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