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.