Monday, April 09, 2007

Twin Killing

Yesterday's Easter Day match-up with the White Sox was certainly a better effort for the Twins than Saturday's moritorium of a game. With Johan Santana on the mound, the Twins obviously had a good chance, despite Ozzie Guillen's plan to load his lineup with lefties. Guillen's plan failed completely and the 2006 AL Cy Young got the help he needed from the 2006 AL MVP as the Twins cruised to a 3-1 victory and a series split with the Chicago South-Siders.

Santana started out looking a little off his game, as he walked three Chicago hitters early on to give the Sox a few scoring chances. Fortunately, he remained as unhittable as ever. Once he got in a groove, he never stopped, ending up with seven innings pitched, one hit allowed, the three walks, and nine strikeouts. Seeing a dominant Santana in his second start of the season is certainly exciting.

What is especially encouraging is how good his change-up looked. In his start against Baltimore, the Orioles lefties managed four doubles off mainly change-ups. It has been noted many times that one of Santana's problems at the beginning of the year is that he doesn't have a feel for his change right away. Yesterday, each one of his pitches looked crisp and devastating. No doubt Santana is ready to contend for another Cy Young.

As for the MVP, Justin Morneau provided the Twins' only offense, hitting a three-run home run off of rookie John Danks (his first career start, in fact) in the fourth inning to drive in Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer to give the Twins the lead for good. Interestingly enough, Minnesota's 3-4-5 made up for all of the Twins offense, aside from a Jason Tyner single, by going 5-for-11.

Out of all the Twins looking pathetic, Nick Punto and Torii Hunter stood out. Punto is 3-for-20 (.150) so far and has not shown much of what made him a good "piranta" last year. As for Hunter, as has been noted on SBG's boards lately, he looks absolutely lost. Minus the home run he had on opening day, Hunter hasn't done very much. When he gets to the plate, he's either swinging at the first pitch and failing to be productive or letting pitches go by before he strikes out.

However, Jason Bartlett only has one hit so far this year and Tyner continues to be a liability whenever he bats. Other than Luis Castillo, the "pirantas" have been highly unimpressive so far. I'm sure Bartlett will come out of it. As for Punto, it's hard to tell if he what we saw last year was merely a mirage or if he just needs to put in some more lessons with Rod Carew.

In Tyner's case, he really should be used as little as possible. Obviously, he's appeared recently due to Rondell White's strained right calf, but he has made it apparent that he offers almost nothing on offense. Anyone paying attention knew that Tyner's .312 average last year was empty and that his lack of power would make it problematic to trust him too much. Hopefully, the Twins will learn a lesson in watching him play early this season.

Overall, it was a great game to watch, with Joe Nathan getting his third save and Twins picking up win No. 4. Tomorrow, the Twins will start a three-game series with the Yankees at the Dome. Remember, tomorrow night is Sidney Ponson's Twins debut, which should make for some excitement, if not for a different kind of Twin killing.

16 comments:

TwinsJunkie said...

Had his change up been off a little more (like you would expect) I bet the left handed lineup would've been a pretty good plan. But you're right, that thing was nasty today.

Corey Ettinger said...

Whats up with you 'boy' Nelson?

Also, twinsjunkie, you have a decent point, however Santana's career against lefties, while it is worse than against righties is still a filthy .230, so 'pretty good' I think is a bit of a relative term. He may have allowed 3 hits. The simple truth is, when Santana is on, you could try having two guys hitting from each side of the plate simultaneously and they'd both be in trouble.

Nick M. said...

I think, Corey, the idea is that lefties have an "easier" time picking up the change-up and thats why the Orioles hitters got to Johan in his first start.

Keep in mind that although Jay Gibbons and Aubrey Huff aren't phenomenal lefites, they are better than the likes of Rob Mackowiak, Scott Podsednik, and A.J. So, part of the problem with Ozzie's plan is that he only has one great left-handed bat in Jim Thome and Thome has done nothing against Johan in his career but hit a few homers.

Corey Ettinger said...

Mosvick... did you see Santana's first game? Especially the doubles? He hung those pitches, I mean, they were fat, each of them. Certaily it helps that he was locating them, but those were really bad pitches. I think if he's locating that changeup, regardless of whether or not lefties can pick it up a bit better, they're still meat. And if he's off with it, he can throw his two-seamer/slider (I think its really more of a tailing two seamer). Either way, he allows a .230 lifetime. Thats nasty.

Nick N. said...

I think the point is that Santana has historically been tougher on righties than lefties. Southpaws have historically hit for a better average (albeit not a good one) and have struck out less often (albeit still quite a bit). No one is saying that a lefty-heavy lineup is expected to tee off against Santana, the thought process is that lefties might get a slightly better look at that changeup than righties, but it's a great enough pitch that no one is going to have a particularly easy time with it.

As for my man Punto, he's just off to a bit of a slow start. I fully expect his average to be sitting around .400 by the end of the month. :)

Nick M. said...

Corey -

I'd say I was trying to make more of a general comment about Santana. And, yea of course .230 is pretty dominant. That's why Guillen's strategy was more of a prayer than anything.

Corey Ettinger said...

.400. Mmmhmmm. I'll tell you what, I'll make you a bet. If Punto is hitting .400 by the end of the month, I'll shave my head. If he's not, you have to shave yours. Deal?

Nick M. said...

A battle of the hair? Things are getting heated on this blog!

Nick N. said...

I'm going to have to pass on that one.

Nick M. said...

Yea, I have to imagine that the bald look isn't quite you.

Corey Ettinger said...

Your presuming he'd lose. BTW... if Punto gets crazy hot starting tomorrow, I'm claiming to be the foundation for his success.

Nick M. said...

Your right. That's because I simply do not see Punto hitting .400 this month. He just does not look at that good right now. Not as bad as he did last September, but I'm pretty sure Nick would lose that bet.

Corey Ettinger said...

Do you not remember you X-box shaming Mosvick? Why wouldn't you want Nelson to lose this bet! He didn't care about your feelings when it was 32-3.

Nick M. said...

Driving a stake throught the heart of this website Corey? I readily admit he had no sympathy and never does on the X-box. But a bald Nick Nelson does no good to this site.

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