Monday, April 16, 2007

Run Shortage

With a 6-4 loss yesterday, the Twins come away from their four-game home series against the Devil Rays with a disappointing series split. Boof Bonser surrendered a lead in the sixth inning when he allowed two homers, and after the Twins had come back to tie the game at four, Joe Nathan had an uncharacteristically horrible outing in the ninth when he gave up two runs on a pair of doubles and a single. With the exception of Saturday night, the Twins did not play well in this series, and if it hadn't been for a couple lucky breaks on Thursday night they might've only come away with one win.

More troubling than the Twins' overall play in this particular series is their persisting insufficiency on offense. Despite scoring seven runs twice in their opening series against Baltimore and bringing 12 runs across on Saturday night against Tampa, the Twins are averaging just 4.08 runs per game this year, nearly a full run less than the 4.94 they averaged last year. As a team, they've hit only seven homers, and four have come off the bat of Justin Morneau. These numbers might not seem all that troubling, but it's games like yesterday's that really give cause for alarm.

Through the first six innings against Rays starter Jae Seo, the Twins managed just two runs on six hits. During that span, they drew zero walks but struck out twice and grounded into two double plays. Keep in mind that Seo is a replacement-level pitcher who entered the game with a 9.64 ERA and 1.169 opponents' OPS on the season. The Twins did finally get to Seo in the seventh, when Jason Kubel doubled in Torii Hunter and Jason Bartlett scored Kubel on an infield single, but they never held a lead in the game and in the end the pitching could not hold up.

There is reason to hope for improvement in the near future though. For one thing, Alexi Casilla and Mike Redmond both started yesterday and combined to go 0-for-8; neither of these guys will be in the lineup regularly. The fact that Casilla and Redmond played meant that two of the teams more consistent hitters in Luis Castillo and Joe Mauer didn't. Meanwhile, the performances of Kubel and Bartlett were very encouraging. Kubel, who is still trying to prove that his knees are back in playing shape, went 2-for-3 with the aforementioned RBI double. Bartlett, who struggled horribly out of the gates, went a perfect 3-for-3 and his defense has looked worlds better since he returned to the lineup after sitting a couple games out. Rondell White is eligible to come off the disabled list in about a week, and his return would hopefully signal an end to the Elrod/Redmond/Tiny madness at DH. The middle of the lineup has looked good, with Morneau batting .289/.360/.622, Michael Cuddyer raking to the tune of .366/.396/.511, and Torii Hunter hitting .273/.304/.523. If Nick Punto can start to get things turned around, I'm hopeful this offense will start to look a lot better over the next couple weeks.

Today they have the day off and tomorrow they'll open a three-game series against the Mariners at Safeco Field.

7 comments:

Corey Ettinger said...

Nick, you're incorrect in stating that the Twins never held a lead, they scored first.

Nick N. said...

You're right. My bad. I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote that. The Twins actually scored first and then led 2-1 before the Rays homered their way ahead in the sixth.

Nick M. said...

Scoring two runs first doesn't change the fact that we still didn't amount that much of a threat against a guy like Jae Seo. That still hurts.

Corey Ettinger said...

The reason the Twins didn't sweep the Rays is because they as a team do a terrible job of working the count. When a team has a bullpen as bad as the Rays each hitter needs to be doing everything they can to dig deep into counts but the case is too often far from that. Take Minnesotan's much loved Justin Morneau, he flew out in his first two at-bats on precisely two pitches. If he'd have been able to take 5 pitches in each AB Seo would have been gone an innings earlier. I'd argue that at-bats like that have as much to do with Minnesota's failure in the series as anything else.

Nick N. said...

Good point Corey. It did seem like the Twins have been allowing most the opposing starters they've faced to go deep into games with relatively low pitch counts.

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