There was a time in which Johan Santana would have a slow April, walking a few too many batters, giving up a few too many hits, and not racking up strikeouts. However, this April continues to be a different story altogether. After last night's win, Santana has struck out 32 while walking only seven and has given up only 18 hits in 27 April innings. That amounts to a 0.93 WHIP and a .186 opponent batting average. Quite good numbers, considering recent April numbers for Santana.
Last night, Santana picked up his third win of the year, going seven innings against the Mariners while striking out seven, giving up four hits, walking one, and giving up two runs, with one unearned due to a Jason Bartlett throwing error. There are few better signs for the possibilities of the Twins season than having Santana start off well. No one will forget his post-All Star break runs anytime soon and Santana could be well on his way to a career year, if anyone can even imagine what that will look like.
However, the one thing that will remain in the way is the inconsistent offense. Last night, the Twins scored five of their six runs in the seventh inning, with their other run coming on a Jason Tyner RBI single in the second. While the seventh included many nice RBI hits, including Michael Cuddyer's two-run double that put the Twins ahead for good, it also exposed lineup issues.
Josh Rabe nearly ended the scoring with a double-play ball that was botched by Yuniesky Betancourt. Rabe is not much of a hitter, with little power (contrary to claims by Bert) or patience, and he certainly showed himself to be a hole in the lineup. And even though Mike Redmond went 2-for-5 with two RBI, it is slightly nerving when Redmond is in the sixth spot as "protection" for the MVP. Obviously, Torii Hunter's injury, as well as Rondell White's, has played into this, but there still isn't that much of an excuse for such limited depth. Redmond isn't a middle-of-the-order hitter and Rabe isn't a qualified major leaguer, so here is to hoping Hunter returns very soon.
However, just as Nick Punto returned last night to shore up the Twins' infield depth, Luis Castillo hurt himself in yesterday's game as he ran the bases on his fifth inning double. After the game, it was reported that he had a strained right quadriceps. No doubt that Twins fans are hoping Castillo doesn't go on the disabled list, but a trip seems likely at this point. I have to wonder, with Castillo out, if Ron Gardenhire will end his annoying habit of making the lineup more according to position than skills. Alexi Casilla is a talented player, but he isn't ready to bat leadoff.
At this point, I would actually be in favor putting Jason Bartlett in front of Nick Punto at the top of the order. Punto isn't much more patient and he strikes out a lot more. Not to mention, Punto is in a far worse slump. And Tyner does not have the skill-set to bat leadoff either. With injuries in mind, I'd like to see this lineup in tonight's game against the Royals:
White may come off disabled list today and if he does, I have to assume that he'll replace Jason Tyner as a starter. At least the Twins have had the luck so far of playing bad teams while they deal with injury problems. Lets hope that once the Twins face Cleveland and Detroit at the end of the month, they are in a better position health-wise.
On a final note, the Wild sadly lost their series to the Anaheim Ducks. At least they made the playoffs, unlike a certain other Minnesota team who played this winter.